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COMMENTARY: UK and OTs | Toward soft colonialism or modern partnership?

By Benito Wheatley, Contributor

As the United Kingdom (UK) General Election approaches, the country’s ongoing political turmoil over Brexit continues to overshadow the strained relationship between the Overseas Territories’ (OTs) and UK.

The critical issue is whether the UK and OTs will have a closer relationship going forward or a more distant one.

A cloud of uncertainty has hung over OT-UK relations ever since 2018 when the UK Government, in response to pressure from the UK Parliament, chose to legislate the adoption of public registers of beneficial ownership by the OTs without their consent and before public registers are established as a global standard.  

The UK measure will have far-reaching consequences for the economies of Bermuda, British Virgin Islands and the Cayman Islands if the implementation is forced upon them given their high dependence on financial services that accounts for a large share of Gross Domestic Product (GDP), employment and government revenue. 

The OTs discontent was amplified by the exclusion of the Channel Islands of Jersey, Guernsey and the Isle of Man from the UK legislation, despite these jurisdictions also being among the so-called ‘offshore’ centres that fly the Union Jack which supposedly should be aligned with the UK. The exclusion of the Channel Islands and inclusion of the OTs demonstrated the clear bias of UK decisionmakers against the OTs.

Relations between the OTs and UK were further strained in 2019 by the House of Commons Foreign Affairs Committee (FAC) publication of a report on Global Britain and the British Overseas Territories that recommended the UK forces the OTs to legalise same-sex marriage, abolish Belonger status as a category of citizenship conferred by the Territory Governments, extend voters’ rights to non-Belongers and widen eligibility criteria for elected office to include persons presently not constitutionally permitted to do so.

Blatant disregard

The FAC’s blatant disregard for the OTs’ constitutions exposed the colonial thinking that remains among a number of UK parliamentarians.

The FAC report, coupled with the UK imposition of public registers on the OTs, reversed much of the goodwill gained by the UK after the British military and wider UK Government came to the aid of the Caribbean Territories that were devastated by Hurricanes Irma and Maria in September 2017.

UK Government attempts to pacify the OTs over the ‘public registers’ issue by setting an implementation deadline of 2023 has not succeeded in restoring relations to their former state as serious doubts remain among the OTs as to whether they still have a modern partnership with the UK.

Respect for OTs’ self-governance is diminishing

While the UK Government maintains that it is committed to a modern partnership under the 2012 White Paper on the Overseas Territories, the signals that have come from certain quarters of the UK Parliament indicate that respect for OTs’ self-governance is diminishing in the UK’s premier political institution which is considered to be sovereign.

The UK must be careful to not allow itself to drift toward soft colonialism, regardless of the justifications by UK parliamentarians for overriding the OTs’ constitutions.

Concrete steps needed for reassuring OTs

Concrete steps will have to be taken by the UK Government to reassure the OTs that it is not the UK’s intention to revert to a colonial posture toward them.

Among other things, the UK must put on the table for consideration some form of constitutional safeguard for all OTs to restrain the UK Government and UK Parliament from arbitrarily legislating for the OTs without their consent, particularly in areas of governance constitutionally delegated to them and over which they have managed successfully on balance. 

Also critical is the preparation of a new UK White Paper on the OTs whose guiding policy should reinforce the principle of self-governance and affirm the OTs inalienable right to self-determination under the United Nations (UN) Charter (i.e. Article 73-74), UN Declaration on the Granting of Independence to Colonial Countries and Peoples (1960) and related UN resolutions and decisions.

Push the UK

The OTs should seize every available opportunity to push the UK on their future relationship, including participating in dialogue within British society on the UK’s own post-Brexit future should the country successfully leave the EU.

The OTs have called on the UK for the past three years to support a post-Brexit economic partnership underpinned by international trade.

This has gained some traction with a UK-OT International Trade Summit held in the Cayman Islands in June.

OTs are well-positioned to help facilitate UK trade

The OTs are well-positioned to help facilitate UK trade through their own trade links in Asia and various regional markets around the world and expertise as financial jurisdictions.

The UK, in turn, can assist the OTs in accessing new markets for their goods and services as the UK Government negotiates new trade deals with partners in regions such as Latin America.

The Commonwealth would also feature prominently in a future UK-OT economic partnership as the UK seeks to tap markets among the political bloc’s fast-growing economies in Africa and Asia.

Partnership on climate change

Beyond trade, the future partnership between the OTs and UK should extend to the challenge of climate change and the pursuit of sustainable development.

UK support to the OTs on climate change adaptation should include grants to all OTs in line with UK funding to Small Island Developing States (SIDS) through the Green Climate Fund and Commonwealth Secretariat. This approach would assist the OTs in building climate resilience and underscore UK leadership in this area.
The UK should also establish a Sustainable Development Fund (SDF) to replace European Union (EU) funding for sustainable development that will be lost by the OTs in the event of Brexit.

OT-UK relationship remains under strain

The OT-UK relationship remains under strain, but this can be overcome if the UK is committed to renewing its modern partnership with the OTs under a new policy framework that reinforces the self-governance of the OTs and is buttressed by constitutional safeguards to protect them from UK overreach. These can be overlaid by a future economic partnership and meaningful cooperation on climate change and sustainable development.

Once the UK General Election is over, it is in the interest of both the UK and OTs to reset relations and find the right balance for a post-Brexit relationship going forward.

The author is a Policy Fellow at the University of Cambridge’s Centre for Science and Policy.

Copyright 2020 BVI News, Media Expressions Limited. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or distributed.

7 Comments

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  1. mark my words says:

    GO SID DUNG!!!!!

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    • Ha...@mark my words says:

      The bootlicking jiggerboos and bucking dancing cronies will soon feel the wrath of true karmic dust. Keep it up!

      Some of us can not be intimidated, nor have no fear of any human who has one head attached with limited brain cells.

      Already pass those grades, and that unread memo has already been thrown in the trash. Those that are “being positioned” to siphone off our treasury will be stopped permanently in their tracks.

      We participated for change- and change we will get. We will not have a repeat of the same nonsense that has been going on for donkey years, under the veil with different disguises. Leave those kindergarten tactics for the deaf, dumb, and blind.

      We play chess, not checkers. Or do you honestly believe some of you are dealing with the deaf, dumb, and blind, here.

      Every move is calculated. We supported certain moves to teach certain public figures a lesson in tough love. Some need to learn the lesson of “loyalty over money.”

      The support of private security is a move even the deaf, dumb, and blind can discern. The cost per square footage of office space for government temporary move, that rivals any developed metropolitan city space, is an insult to the intelligence of the adepts.

      If we continue to allow certain moves to go on, what will happen within 4 years, will
      will make what happened under the NDP, look like an underdeveloped embryo.

      We connect dots very accurately, and our moves are made to evoke the spirits of the unjust.

      Likewise, we are very aware that when those who chose to fight for our people decide to make that stand, they should also know to only fight with one hand, so the other hand can be used to fight off their own, that is- Bootlicking Cronies like you.

      And by the ways, we do not want to hear anymore about the NDP and what they may have done or did not do. M&M have not done anything close to what certain cronies are being positioned to possibly indulge in. So, it’s time to stop blowing that overplayed horn and get off their backs and stand on you’ll own two feet.

      As hon Fraser rightfully said, the honeymoon is over…”

      We must pass the stage of kindergarten politics to even begin to entertain a discussion of self-determination.

      Until then, god save the queen and her overseers, who are lights ahead in the art of this political game, must remain to arbitrate the necessary checks and balances, particularly from those intoxicated by the idea of more power, (or access), equals more money.

      The move forward must be about doing the right things and balancing out the playing field so we all can grow.

      Conversely, we are also very aware of those who consult and indulge in the occultation of the dark sciences, but be warned, their scrying of those dragon glass mirrors had better be properly deciphered as to not evoke the caduceus staff of Neith.

      Finally, Basic. Instructions. Before. Leaving. Earth.- “For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.” Carry-on.

      • Just to clarify says:

        Our comment to- mark my words- is only directed to cronies who seek to enrich themselves off the backs of taxpayers and then turn around and tell the masses to pull themselves up by their bootstraps without asking first- if they even have boots to do soo, all while their strings are tied directly to the gov’t coffers.

        With that said, our comment is not directed in anyway to Mr. Benito Wheatley whom has actually earned his stripes. Mr. Benito Wheatley has earned his position as one of our most highly respected diplomat, and we expect even greater representation from him on the international stage moving forward in our continued development.

        His contributions are always most welcomed. Thank you.

  2. E. Leonard says:

    Benito, good read and real talk. To the info, here is my farthing’s worth of addition/contribution. Every country acts out of self interest; the UK is. The Caribbean (West Indies. Why they were called West Indies is another tory) has lost its strategic value. For example, during WWII, it was the Caribbean Coastal Frontier, monitoring and protecting against enemy submarines and protecting the vital sea lanes.

    There were forward deployed bases in British Guiana (now Guyana), Antigua, Trinidad, St Lucia, Jamaica, Bermuda, Bahamas and Newfoundland; and additional bases in TCI, Barbados, Cuba, Panama and Puerto Rico. Though most of these bases were US, they benefitted allies. After the war, most of these bases were decommissioned.

    Further, the UK had an array of colonies in the Caribbean that were used to supply raw material for UK factories, putting its residents to work at the expense of residents in the colonies. Once the meagre resources were depleted and alternative sources found, the independence parade was bud speed ahead with Jamaica on 06 August 1962. Only the smaller islands were left behind, ie, Anguilla, Montserrat, VI, TCI, Bermuda, and CI. And the UK will gladly grant them independence if they so desire.

    Moreover, the Channel Islands (Jersey, Guernsey and Isle of Man) were exempted from the beneficial ownership requirements; well, there is a commonality among them and there’s also a commonality among the VI, CI and Bermuda. For the greater good of the region, the region needs to unite; others have done it—US, Canada, Europe, Australia…..etc. If the Federation (1958-62) had endured, the region would have advanced farther. Let’s keep hope alive.

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  3. E. Leonard says:

    Benito, good read and real talk. To the info, here is my farthing’s worth of addition/contribution. Every country acts out of self interest; the UK is. The Caribbean (West Indies. Why they were called West Indies is another tory) has lost its strategic value. For example, during WWII, it was the Caribbean Coastal Frontier, monitoring and protecting against enemy submarines and protecting the vital sea lanes.

    There were forward deployed bases in British Guiana (now Guyana), Antigua, Trinidad, St Lucia, Jamaica, Bermuda, Bahamas and Newfoundland; and additional bases in TCI, Barbados, Cuba, Panama and Puerto Rico. Though most of these bases were US, they benefitted allies. After the war, most of these bases were decommissioned.

    Further, the UK had an array of colonies in the Caribbean that were used to supply raw material for UK factories, putting its residents to work at the expense of residents in the colonies. Once the meagre resources were depleted and alternative sources found, the independence parade was bud speed ahead with Jamaica on 06 August 1962; St. Kitts and Nevis (Federation of St. Christopher and Nevis), the last in Sep 83. Only the smaller islands were left behind, ie, Anguilla, Montserrat, VI, TCI, Bermuda, and CI. And the UK will gladly grant them independence if they so desire. The reality is that they have the right to voluntarily embark on the independence journey.

    Moreover, the Channel Islands (Jersey, Guernsey and Isle of Man) were exempted from the beneficial ownership requirements; well, there is a commonality among them and there’s also a commonality among the VI, CI and Bermuda. For the greater good of the region, the region needs to unite; others have done it—US, Canada, Europe, Australia…..etc. If the Federation (1958-62) had endured, the region would have advanced farther. Let’s keep hope alive.

  4. Quiet Rebel says:

    Let’s keep it real. The UK and its colonies/former colonies were/are like oil and water; there was never any great love affair between them. It was always and still is a one sided partnership; it was never a 50:50 partnership. It was a master-slave relationship. Grabbing land in the supposed New World was just a land grab, gobbling up as many islands as it could and raping them of any available resources. They were just sources from which to harvest raw material, ie, sugar, cotton, indigo, precious metals.

    The Triangle was profitable for the UK. From UK ports to West Africa to pick and transport slaves to the colonies and from colonies laden with raw materials back to European ports. The only people that didn’t share in the profits were slaves and their descendants. A University College of London study led by Dr. Draper outline how slave owners were compensated after the abolition of slavery. The UK has never give a rat’s ass about the colonies and their people.

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    • Sharing is Caring says:

      And why should the UK care? For relationships to work, there has to be give and take from both sides. What are the VI’s giving back to Britain at the moment? The relationship is too one sided and personally I think the UK should cut its ties with the OTs and give you all your independence.

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