Prime Minister of Antigua and Barbuda Seeks a Referendum on Becoming a Republic
On Saturday, September 10th, after King Charles III was confirmed following the death of Queen Elizabeth II, Prime Minister of Antigua and Barbuda Gaston Browne announced via ITV News that within the next few years, the Caribbean nation would hold a referendum on whether or not to remove the new monarch as the head of state. The referendum would also decide whether the country becomes a republic.
Prime Minister Browne said, “This is not an act of hostility or any difference between Antigua and Barbuda and the monarchy, but it is the final step, as I said before, to complete that circle of independence to ensure that we are truly a sovereign nation.”
Browne announced that he expects the referendum to take place within the next three years.
Though the country gained independence from the United Kingdom in 1981, Antigua is one of 14 countries where the British monarch still reigns as head of state. Despite the fact that the late Queen Elizabeth hadn’t visited the nation in 37 years, citizens saw her face daily as her portrait was on the local currency, being the only tangible link to a distant monarchy.
More insight on Antigua…
Antigua is a sovereign island country in the West Indies, located between the Caribbean Sea and the Atlantic Ocean. Christopher Columbus discovered the island of Antigua in 1493 and named it after the Church of Santa Maria La Antigua. Britain colonized Antigua in 1632, gaining independence from the UK on November 1, 1981, after gaining self-government in its internal affairs.
Queen Elizabeth paid three visits to Antigua during her reign, including a trip four years after the islands gained independence. Her son, King Charles, visited the country in 2017 to witness hurricane recovery efforts in the region following Hurricane Irma.
Antigua and Barbuda’s economy relies heavily on tourism, which accounts for 80% of the nation’s GDP. Like other island nations, Antigua and Barbuda are especially vulnerable to the effects of climate change, such as sea level rise and increased intensity of extreme weather events such as hurricanes, which directly impact the islands through coastal erosion, water scarcity, and other challenges.
Even if the outcome of the referendum is the removal of the monarchy, Prime Minister Browne says Antigua will remain a committed member of the Commonwealth.