Antigua and Barbuda PM plans republic referendum within three years

Bittersweet mourning in Caribbean: Antigua and Barbuda PM wants republic referendum ‘within three years’ after confirming Charles III as new King – as President of Barbados (already a republic) says Queen will ‘always hold a special place in our hearts’

  • Antigua and Barbuda’s PM plans to call for referendum on it becoming a republic
  • It comes after the death of the Queen and the proclamation of Charles III as King 
  • Gaston Browne previously said it was his country’s wish to become a republic
  • Even if it does vote to remove monarchy it will remain a Commonwealth member
  • Caribbean country is one of 14 nations to retain British monarch as head of state
  • President of Barbados – recently made a republic – says country treasures Queen
  • Full coverage: Click here to see all our coverage of the Queen’s passing

Antigua and Barbuda’s prime minister has said he will call for a referendum on the country becoming a republic within three years following the Queen’s death.

Prime minister Gaston Browne signed a document yesterday confirming Charles’ status as the new King.

But minutes later, he said he would push for a republic referendum after indicating such a move earlier this year during a visit by the Earl and Countess of Wessex.

It comes as tributes to the Queen have poured in from people and leaders across the Caribbean, including from the President of Barbados, which cut ties with the monarchy last year when it became a republic.

The prime minister of Antigua and Barbuda has said following the Queen´s death he will call for a referendum on the country becoming a republic within three years

Prince Charles, as he was then, speaking with Gaston Browne at a meeting on climate action in 2015

Prime Minister Browne told ITV: ‘This is not an act of hostility or any difference between Antigua and Barbuda and the monarchy, but it is the final step to complete that circle of independence, to ensure that we are truly a sovereign nation.

‘I’d say probably within the next three years,’ he added, when asked for a timeframe on the referendum.

Mr Browne added that his country would remain a committed member of the Commonwealth, even if it removes the monarchy via referendum. 

Antiguan resident Anna Crick paid tribute to the late Queen, saying: ‘It’s all about the love that we have for her and the passion we have. Although we are independent – we honour our own – we still look up to her.’ 

The Caribbean country is one of 14 nations – excluding the UK – to retain the British monarch as their head of state after Barbados became independent last year.

The president of Barbados, which became a republic less than a year ago, paid tribute to the Queen, saying she was a ‘treasured’ public figure ‘who will always hold a place in our hearts’.

In a televised address, Dame Sandra Mason said that while the country had chosen to break ‘constitutional ties with the British monarchy’, their decision ‘did not in the least diminish the friendship between our two nations and indeed Buckingham Palace.’

Camilla, the then Duchess of Cornwall, and the then Prince Charles with Dame Sandra Mason on a 2019 Caribbean tour

Prince of Wales, now King Charles III, being greeted by Dame Sandra Mason as he arrived in Barbados last November


Dame Sandra Mason, left, was inaugurated as the first president of Barbados in a ceremony addressed by Prince Charles in November last year

At the independence ceremony in November last year, the now-King Charles acknowledged the ‘appalling atrocity of slavery’ as a ‘stain’ on British history.

During their visit to Antigua in April, the PM called on the Wessexes to use their ‘diplomatic influence’ to achieve ‘reparatory justice’ for slavery, and outlined his country’s wish to ‘one day become a republic’.

The earl was criticised as ‘arrogant’ for joking that he had not been taking notes during Mr Browne’s comments.

Prince William, then Duke of Cambridge and Catherine, who is now Princess of Wales following the Queen’s death, during a tour of Jamaica in March. The couple were accused of harking back to colonial times as they rode in the back of a Land Rover, just as the Queen had done 60 years prior

Gaston Browne asked for help securing ‘reparatory justice’ for slavery and said it was his country’s wish to become a republic during a meeting with the Earl and Countess of Wessex earlier this year

In March this year, William and Kate were accused of harking back to colonial times in Jamaica after the pair shook hands with crowds behind a wire mesh fence and rode in the back of a Land Rover, just as the Queen had done 60 years prior.

Demonstrators in the country accused them of benefiting from the ‘blood, tears and sweat’ of slaves, while in the Bahamas they were urged to acknowledge the British economy was ‘built on the backs’ of past Bahamians and to pay reparations.

In March this year, William and Kate were accused of harking back to colonial times in Jamaica after the pair shook hands with crowds behind a wire mesh fence

Catherine, who was then Duchess of Cambridge and Prince William attending a parade for service personnel in Jamaica earlier this year

Jamaica’s prime minister Andrew Holness suggested to William and Kate that his country may be the next to become a republic, while a minister from Belize said afterwards that perhaps it was time to ‘take the next step in truly owning our independence’.

William acknowledged after the trip that the monarchy’s days in the Caribbean may be numbered as he stated the future ‘is for the people to decide upon’.

Antigua and Barbuda’s colonial history

Antigua was colonized by English settlers in 1632 with the nearby island of Barbuda colonized in 1678.

In 1674 a Barbadian-born British soldier and slave-owner Christopher Codrington established the first sugar planation on the islands.

Within four years, half of Antigua’s population was made up of African slaves who had been shipped from the continent’s west coast in horrendous conditions.

Whilst tobacco, indigo and ginger crops were also grown, sugar became the dominant source of revenue for the planation owners on the island nation.

Toiling for hours in the hot sun, enslaved people were forced to work to feed the burgeoning thirst for sugar back in England.

The British freed slaves in Antigua in 1834 as part of a wider move to abolish slavery in Britain’s Caribbean colonies, but many continued working in similarly awful conditions for many years under British rule.

Antigua and Barbuda became an associated state in 1967, meaning its government controlled internal affairs while the UK government kept control over external affairs and defense.

An independence movement grew on the islands in the 1970s and the country achieved independence on November 1, 1981.

Its first prime minister was Vere Bird and it retains the British monarch as its Head of State and the constitutional monarchy model of government to this day.

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