By LEANDRA ROLLE
THE British High Commission was officially re-opened during a special ceremony in New Providence yesterday nearly 15 years after closing its operations in the country.
Speaking at yesterday's ceremony, British High Commissioner Sarah Dickson said the move will further strengthen the relationship between The Bahamas and the United Kingdom.
With the diplomatic office being re-opened, she said, officials will be able to focus on mutual interests shared between the respective countries, including climate, environmental and educational matters.
"Today is a celebration, a moment of joy as we intensify the relationship between the UK and The Bahamas by reopening the British High Commission," she said.
"We derive strength and prosperity from the living bridge, individuals and communities, that span the Atlantic Ocean. This reopened High Commission will continue to focus on these bonds, people to people, company to company, organisation to organisation and government to government."
In 2018, then-British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson announced the UK would reopen a diplomatic office in The Bahamas among other countries.
In announcing the move, Mr Johnson, now Britain's prime minister, said in April 2019: "These new diplomatic posts are in regions which provide huge potential and opportunity post-Brexit for British businesses and will help us to deepen our relationships across the Commonwealth."
The last British high commissioner to The Bahamas was Peter Young, who served from 1996 to 1999, when the British High Commission was transferred to Jamaica. However, he remained in The Bahamas as British honorary consul until his retirement in February 2013.
While noting the British High Commission should have never left The Bahamas, head of The British Diplomatic Service, Sir Simon McDonald maintained the UK is looking forward to working with the Bahamian people once again.
"This is part of my global network and we're very proud to reopen in Nassau today after a gap of nearly 15 years. We realised we should've never have gone so it's good to be back," he told reporters.
"We're opening a series of missions around the Caribbean. We're also coming back to St Vincent and the Grenadines, Grenada, St Lucia, Antigua and Barbuda and so we're making ourselves felt."
Asked why the British government decided to reopen its office after all these years, Sir Simon noted that it follows a wider campaign to increase the UK's presence in the Caribbean following Brexit.
"As you may know, two weeks ago we left the European Union and the consequence of being a member of the European Union was to focus evermore on our immediate neighbourhood and to do evermore without European partners," he explained.
"The referendum decided that we should leave and make our own way on the global stage so now we are consciously re-engaging with older relationships, so we re-opening in Nassau is part of that process."
Also speaking at yesterday's event was Prime Minister Dr Hubert Minnis, who expressed confidence that ties between the two nations will be deepened as a result of the move.
"The Bahamas is delighted to see the reopening of the British High Commission, which I am confident will serve to deepen the warm relationship that already exists between the two," said Dr Minnis at yesterday's ceremony.
"…The Bahamas and the UK are committed to the development of our young people."
"This reopening symbolises and reaffirms the commitment of the United Kingdom to our long-shared history and our bilateral relations in matters of mutual interest, bilaterally, regionally, and multilaterally."
High Commissioner Dickson has served the British Diplomatic Service for more than 20 years.
Her last diplomatic appointment was as UK ambassador to Guatemala and Honduras.