|Status:||British Overseas Territory|
|Area:||53.3 sq km (21 sq miles)|
|Languages:||English. There is also a significant Portuguese-speaking community.|
|Religion(s):||Mainly Christian although many faiths are represented. The most popular denominations are Anglican and African Methodist Episcopalian (AME).|
|Currency:||Bermuda Dollar (parity with US Dollar)|
|Major political parties:||Progressive Labour Party (PLP), United Bermuda Party (UBP)|
|Premier:||The Honourable William Alexander Scott, JP, MP|
The islands and islets of Bermuda (32 degrees 18'N and 64 degrees 46'W) lie along the southern rim of the summit of a submarine volcanic mountain in the Western Atlantic. Bermuda, a group of about 138 islands and islets, lies 570 miles east of the coast of North Carolina. The eight main islands form a chain about 22 miles long, interconnected by bridges and causeways. The warming effect of the Gulf Stream makes Bermuda the most northerly group of coral islands in the world.
The Bermudas were visited in about 1505 by a Spanish sailor, Juan de Bermudez, and had been given the name 'La Bermuda' by 1510. Ferdinand d'Orviedo (also Spanish) sighted them in 1515. They remained uninhabited until 1609, when The Sea Venture, commanded by Sir George Somers on its way to Virginia with British settlers, was wrecked on reefs close to the eastern shores. The survivors were able to build two ships and continue their journey to Jamestown - bringing with them much needed supplies for Bermuda. News spread of the beauty and fertility of the islands, and in 1612 King James I and VI extended the charter of the Virginia Company to include them. The first emigrants went out in that year; others followed, and enslaved Africans were brought with them as house servants. The islands, which became known as Somers Islands, were bought about 1615 by some entrepreneurs from the City of London. The settlers became weary of the restrictions imposed on them by the Virginia Company and its successor the Bermuda Company. They took their case to London and in 1684 the company's charter was annulled, and government passed to the Crown. As elsewhere in the British empire, slavery was abolished in Bermuda in August 1834.
Bermuda is Britain's oldest colony and its Parliament, which first met in 1620, is the oldest legislature in the Commonwealth outside the British Isles. Bermuda is a British Overseas Territory and is self-governing with a high degree of control over its own affairs. Appointed by and representing the British monarch, the Governor in turn appoints the majority leader in the House of Assembly as Premier. The Premier has complete responsibility for choosing the Cabinet, which must include at least six other members of the legislature, and allocating portfolios, though the Governor retains responsibility for external affairs, defence, internal security and the police.
The current Government, the PLP (Progressive Labour Party) won the last General Election in 2003, and after a period of infighting within the party, Alex Scott became the new leader and was sworn in as Premier. The composition of the House of Assembly is 22 PLP and 14 UBP (United Bermuda Party).
The issue of independence currently dominates in Bermuda, with the current pro-independence Government. In December 2004 the Premier announced the formation of the Bermuda Independence Commission. The role of this independent body was the explore the subject of independence for Bermuda, the pros and cons, and present it to the population of Bermuda in an easy-to-understand form. A report will be issued in the autumn. A referendum on independence was last held in 1995, and of the 58% of the electorate who participated, 25% voted in favour. Current opinion polls (as at 1 June) show 20.1% support self-governance, with 65% opposed.
Due to be held by August 2008.
Governor: Sir John Vereker KCB
Deputy Governor's Office:
Deputy Governor: Nick Carter
Executive Officer: Charlotte Rickward
Tel: 001 441 292 3600
Fax: 001 441 295 3823
Premier: The Hon William Alexander Scott, JP, MP
Deputy Premier and Minister of Transport and Tourism: The Hon Ewart Brown
Attorney General and Minister of Justice and Legislative Affairs: Senator Larry Mussenden
Minister of Finance: The Hon Paula Cox
Minister of Labour, Home Affairs and Public Safety: The Hon Randolph Horton
Minister of Works and Engineering and Housing: David Burch
Minister of the Environment: The Hon Neletha Butterfield
Minister of Health and Family Services: The Hon Patricia Minors
Minister of Telecommunications and E-Commerce: The Hon Michael Scott
Minister of Education: The Hon Terry Lister
Minister of Community Affairs and Sport: The Hon Dale Butler
Minister without Portfolio: Walter Lister
Cabinet Secretary: John Drinkwater
GDP:US $4 billion (2003)
GDP per head:US $63,222 (2003)
Annual Growth:3.9% (2003)
Inflation:+3/1% (April 2005)
Major Industries:Insurance, re-insurance, international finance, tourism, light manufacturing
Major trading partners:USA
Exchange rate:UK£1 = B$1.80 (linked to US $ exchange rate)
Bermuda's closest neighbours are the US and Canada. Bermuda has had strong historical links with US in trade and as a strategic military position. During the Second World War, a US military base was established at Kindley Field. Under a treaty between the US and Britain, its airport was opened to civilian aircraft. The base was closed down in 1995, and the formal termination of the lease completed in 2003. Bermuda is often linked with the Caribbean region, even though it is approximately 1000 miles away.
The UK is responsible for Bermuda's external relations.
HMG in the UK is responsible for Bermuda's external relations, defence and internal security. The principal point of contact is Overseas Territories Department, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (+44 207 008 3596) and the Deputy Governor's Office, Government House, Bermuda (+1 441 292 2587).
There is no UK Representative for the Government of Bermuda
UK exports to Bermuda: £42 million (2003)
Bermuda exports to the UK: £68 million (2003)
Overseas Territories are expected to comply with their obligations under the international human rights instruments which have been extended to them. The following major Conventions apply in Bermuda:
Bermudians are very sports minded. Soccer and cricket are both very popular on the island. A number of Bermudians have made a name for themselves in the UK, including Shaun Goater who plays for Southend United; Kyle Lightbourn who played for Stoke and Clyde Best who played for West Ham. The island has also produced world-class sailors. Bermuda regularly competes in the Olympics and Commonwealth Games.
Bermuda is almost unique in its use of a defaced Red Ensign on land as a national flag. This was based on the defaced Red Ensign which Canada received permission to display in 1892 (the provinces of Manitoba and Ontario still use defaced Red Ensigns as state flags). Because there were connections between Canada, Bermuda and the Bahamas, the latter two started using defaced Ensigns without permission until 1967 when the Bermuda flag was given official recognition.