COMPREHENSIVE REPORT: Lovell says blame PM for Canada visa restrictions

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By Brenton Henry

United Progressive Party (UPP) leader Harold Lovell has said that Prime Minister Gaston Browne is to blame now that Antiguans & Barbudans have been hit with visa restrictions by Canada.

Authorities in the North American country announced today, the end to decades of visa-free access because “Antigua and Barbuda no longer meet Canada’s criteria for a visa exemption.”

Lovell says that’s Browne’s fault because his three-year-old administration failed to heed warnings about the “reckless management of the Citizenship by Investment Programme.”

For example, Lovell says the government’s short-lived CIP deal for an Iraqi settlement here was “of great concern to the international community.”

But the Prime Minister said he tried hard to preserve the visa-free arrangement with Canada but knew all along that it could be terminated “at a moment’s notice.”

Canada gave Antiguans & Barbudans only one day notice of its intention to halt the regime, which was been seen as a feather in the cap of Antigua’s CIP.

A founding member of the new Democratic National Alliance is questioning why the country’s diplomat in Ottawa and the Prime Minister never informed the nation of Canada’s decision before.

Anthony Stuart, a longtime opponent of CIP, is also charging that neither Browne nor Lovell has the moral authority to speak in light of the “sad” development.

He holds them jointly responsible for “selling” the country’s citizenship in the first place.

“They would have overseen this dilemma which now has many citizens scrambling,” Stuart said.

The politician is predicting that as the CIP will end as the Antigua & Barbuda passport becomes less attractive as visas to other nations are imposed.

Political Scientist Peter Wickham told a local radio station that he does not support the view that England will follow Canada.

He thinks while Canada’s decision is unfair, “but I don’t think it should surprise any of the leaders that this is the direction that Canada has gone.”

Many residents are not happy with the announcement but at the same time, the news hasn’t been surprising.

“See I knew this would happen,” one woman wrote on Facebook blaming the CIP.

Some else said “I see UPP cursing ALP over it but it’s been something Canada been considering since UPP times. Was bound to happen.”

For Prime Minister Gaston Browne, it’s a simple equation loose visa-free access to Canada or forego $150 million in CIP revenues annually.

Canada says it’s still open to Antiguans and Barbudans but not without a visa.

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