Antigua and Barbuda Prime Minister Gaston Browne plans referendum on replacing the monarchy

The Prime Minister of Antigua and Barbuda, Gaston Browne, tells ITV News he will hold a referendum on becoming a republic within three years

Just moments after Charles III was confirmed as King of Antigua and Barbuda, the Caribbean country's prime minister has told ITV News that he plans to hold a referendum on becoming a republic within three years.

At an Accession ceremony at Government House in the capital St John’s, local dignitaries signed the proclamation confirming the status of their new King.

But the Prime Minister Gaston Browne has made no secret of his aspiration to replace the monarchy and become a republic.  

His Antigua and Barbuda Labour Party returned to power in 2014 with Browne now in the eighth year of his premiership.

The islands became independent in 1981, and he considers a republic to be the natural progression.

He told ITV News: “This is a matter that has to be taken to a referendum for the people to decide.

"It does not represent any form of disrespect to the monarch. This is not an act of hostility, or any difference between Antigua and Barbuda and the monarchy.

"It is a final step to complete the circle of independence to become a truly sovereign nation.”

King Charles III, then Prince of Wales, making a speech at Antigua's Government House in 2017 Credit: PA

Queen Elizabeth visited Antigua three times during her reign, the most recent in 1985. Prince Charles, as he then was, followed in her footsteps five years ago when he saw recovery efforts following two devastating hurricanes.

Mr Browne is expected to be re-elected next year, and if he does he will introduce the referendum within his next term of office.  

He said that it wasn’t a burning issue in the country, and when taking soundings, there hadn’t been any “significant emotional responses. I think most people haven’t even bothered to think about it.”

'This is not an act of hostility or any difference between Antigua and Barbuda and the monarchy but it is the final step...to ensure that we are truly a sovereign nation'

The Caribbean islands are one one of 14 independent realms who have continued to have the British monarch as their head of state. Barbados voted to become a republic last year.

For most Antiguans their tangible connection to a distant head of state comes when handling the banknotes which contain her portrait.

The East Caribbean dollar is used by several counties in the region. Prime Minister Browne says he still expects new banknotes to be designed featuring King Charles III in due course, regardless of any constitutional changes.

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