In Brief

Barbados plan to drop Queen as head of state ‘driven by Chinese interference’, MP claims

Tom Tugendhat says the Caribbean island risks swapping a ‘symbolic’ leader for a ‘real emperor in Beijing’

Chinese pressure has driven Barbados to call for the removal of the Queen as its head of state, a Conservative MP has claimed. 

Tom Tugendhat, chairperson of the foreign affairs committee, says “Beijing had actively sought to undermine London’s historical status as a key partner with Caribbean nations”, The Times reports.

While declining to reveal details of how China had sought to influence the Caribbean island, Tugendhat told the paper: “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.”

A source told the paper that CIA intelligence about China’s influence over the tiny Caribbean island has been passed to Britain.

Relations between Barbados and China have strengthened in recent years, with the former joining Beijing’s Chinese Belt and Road initiative in 2019. Last year, the Asian superpower also donated “technology equipment including laptops and tablets and in 2017 Beijing gave teaching equipment to the island’s schools”, the Daily Express says.

Tugendhat’s comments came after Dame Sandra Mason, the Barbados governor-general, announced last week that the island would remove the Queen as its ceremonial head. 

Mason said that Barbadians wanted a Barbadian head of state for the island which gained independence in 1966, adding: “The time has come to fully leave our colonial past behind.”

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