Barbados to remove Queen Elizabeth II as head of state

Barbados has announced that it will remove Queen Elizabeth II as its head of state and declare a republic by November next year.

The former colony has been independent from the UK since 1966, but kept a formal link with the monarchy and Queen Elizabeth II as a legal and practical, but non-political, ruler.

"The time has come to fully leave our colonial past behind," the Caribbean island nation's government said.

It aims to complete the process in time for the 55th anniversary of independence from Britain, in November 2021.

A speech written by Prime Minister Mia Mottley and read out by governor-general Sandra Mason on Tuesday set out the nation's plan for a home-grown head of state, ahead of the opening of parliament.

"Barbadians want a Barbadian head of state. This is the ultimate statement of confidence of who we are and what we are capable of achieving."

The move to declare Barbados a republic has been a long time coming: in 1998, a Barbadian constitutional review commission recommended republican status; and, in 2015, the then prime minister, Freundel Stuart, said: "We have to move from a monarchical system to a republican form of government in the very near future."

Buckingham Palace and the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office said the issue is a matter for the people of Barbados.

A source at Buckingham Palace said that the idea "was not out of the blue" and "has been mooted and publicly talked about many times",it has been reported.

Jamaica has also indicated that it plans such a transition, with its prime minister, Andrew Holness, saying it is a priority of his government.

Most Caribbean countries have kept formal links with the British monarchy after achieving independence, but Barbados will join Trinidad and Tobago, Dominica and Guyana in cutting ties if it proceeds with its plan.

The last nation to remove the queen as head of state was Mauritius, back in 1992.