Pressure from China is driving the campaign for Barbados to become a republic, a Conservative MP has claimed.
Tom Tugendhat, chairman of the foreign affairs committee, said Beijing was playing a large role in the island nation’s decision to remove the Queen as head of state.
Barbados signed on to China’s ‘Belt and Road’ initiative in 2019, opening up trade between the two countries.
Meanwhile CIA intelligence in the US about Chinese activities in Barbados has now reportedly been shared with Britain.
Mr Tugendhat told the Times: ‘China has been using infrastructure investment and debt diplomacy as a means of control for a while and it’s coming closer to home for us.
‘British partners have long faced challenges from rivals seeking to undermine our alliance.
‘Today we’re seeing it in the Caribbean. Some islands seem to be close to swapping a symbolic Queen in Windsor for a real and demanding emperor in Beijing.’
China has poured billions of dollars of investment into the Caribbean in recent years while signing tax and trade deals in an attempt to wrest the region out of the West’s sphere of influence and bring it under the sway of Beijing.
The Chinese government has invested at least $7billion in six Caribbean nations since 2005, records complied by the American Enterprise Institute show – building roads, ports and the five-star Baha Mar casino and resort in the Bahamas.
However, the true scale of Chinese investment in the region – which can often be opaque and funneled through private companies – is thought to be much higher.
Meanwhile eight countries have signed on to Beijing’s Belt and Road initiative, including Jamaica, Barbados and Trinidad and Tobago.
Agreements have been signed place to deepen trade ties along with building bridges and airports, an improving energy and telecommunications networks.
China has been particularly generous with nations that have agreed to cut relations with Taiwan – a country in the East China Sea which Beijing claims as a province – and recognise the Communist Party as the supreme authority.
In 2005, China rewarded Grenada, which has an annual GDP of just $1.8billion, with a brand new $55million cricket stadium after it cut relations with Taiwan.
Similarly, in 2018, the Dominican Republic was lavished with Chinese investment thought to have topped $3billion after it also cut ties with Taipei.
Barbados, meanwhile, is has received at least $490million, mostly as investment in the tourist sector, but is also thought to be benefiting from private deals.
The country has established beneficial tax deals with Beijing in recent years in an attempt to make itself a hub for Chinese financial looking to invest in South America.
In 2019, a permanent branch of Invest Barbados was established in Beijing to help attract this investment.
Also last year, Barbados signed a Memorandum of Understanding with China, making it part of the country’s Belt and Road initiative – otherwise known as the new Silk Road.
The agreement promises development of Barbados’s shipping, aviation, infrastructure and agriculture sectors.
Barbados has maintained strong relations with Britain even after gaining independence in 1966, but last week announced it would become a republic in 2021.
A speech written by Prime Minister Mia Mottley quoted the Caribbean island nation’s first premier Errol Barrow’s warning against ‘loitering on colonial premises’.
Buckingham Palace has said Barbados’ intention to remove the Queen as head of state and become a republic is a ‘matter’ for the Caribbean nation.
Reading the speech, Governor-General Dame Sandra Mason said: ‘The time has come to fully leave our colonial past behind. Barbadians want a Barbadian Head of State.
‘This is the ultimate statement of confidence in who we are and what we are capable of achieving.
‘Hence, Barbados will take the next logical step toward full sovereignty and become a Republic by the time we celebrate our 55th Anniversary of Independence.’
Asked to comment on the Commonwealth country’s plans a palace spokesman said: ‘This is a matter for the government and people of Barbados.’
Downing Street said it was a ‘decision for Barbados and the Government there’ but that Britain would continue to ‘enjoy a partnership’ with the Caribbean island nation as members of the Commonwealth.
A Number 10 spokesman said: ‘We obviously have a shared history and remain united with Barbados in terms of history, culture and language, and we will continue to have and enjoy a partnership with them as members of the Commonwealth.’
The country gained its independence from Britain in 1966, though the Queen remains its constitutional monarch.
In 1998, a Barbados constitutional review commission recommended republican status, and in 2015 Prime Minister Freundel Stuart said ‘we have to move from a monarchical system to a republican form of government in the very near future’.
Most Caribbean countries have kept formal links with the monarchy after achieving independence.
Barbados would join Trinidad and Tobago, Dominica and Guyana if it proceeds with its plan to become a republic.
Jamaica has also flagged such a transition, with Prime Minister Andrew Holness saying it is a priority of his government, but has yet to achieve it.
Barbados took another step towards independence from the UK in 2003 when it replaced the London-based Judicial Committee of the Privy Council with the Caribbean Court of Justice, located in Trinidad and Tobago’s Port of Spain, as its final appeals court.
Former Prime Minister Owen Arthur promoted the idea of a referendum on becoming a republic in 2005, however the vote was called off due to concerns raised by the Electoral and Boundaries Commission. (DAILY MAIL)