Author: Jeevan Robinson | Date: 29 January 2012
Last September at the Oval cricket ground in London, I sat in the media centre speaking with the chief cricket correspondent for the Independent Newspaper in the United Kingdom. We were exchanging views about the relationship between Britain and its many overseas outposts, particularly those in the Caribbean.
We were mainly concerned with how best the remaining British outposts can leverage some degree of influence in the House of Parliament in the UK. The islands of interest were the Turks & Caicos Islands, Anguilla and Montserrat. The BVI, we deemed to be doing well enough to be excluded from seeking a great sphere of influence in the UK Parliament. Perhaps we were wrong in this assessment, as political inclusion should be for all and not a selective measure.
The relevance of that discussion has to do with the recent announcement that Conservative British Member of Parliament, Andrew Rosindell, has made a proposition that Crown Dependencies and British Overseas Territories be represented with a member in the UK Parliament, in London.
Mr Rosindell made his proposition to the UK Parliament's Backbench Business Committee recently.
What I find very encouraging, and equally enlightening about Mr Rosindell's position on this issue, is his contention that it was wrong that "Britain's dependencies were ultimately governed by the UK parliament, but were given no voice at all in Parliament in the UK"
Mr Rosindell further indicated to the Committee "The UK, our Government, our Parliament, ultimately governs 21 territories around the world, but those territories have no voice in this Parliament. They elect no representatives and have no representation, unlike former colonies and territories of other countries, such as Australia, Denmark, France and the Netherlands, which have external territories committees to which representatives are elected."
Will Mr Rosindell's submission gain traction? That is left to be determined, and if it does gain traction, where an open discussion begins towards bringing such a consideration into law, then how would it transform the relationship between Britain and its dependent outposts?
I have always believed that the relationship between Britain and its overseas territories must reflect to a large extent the values and ideals of the times we are living in. No longer should these British outposts be viewed as possessions, with Britain rising to do what it must to meet its legal and ethical obligations. The relationship should be transformative in this the 21st century. Thus, I am of the view that Mr Rosindell's idea as expressed, will dramatically transform the relationship between Britain and its outposts towards being more balanced towards a relationship of equals.
Too often laws and various aspects of governance are passed down from the UK to the dependent territories with the territories on occasions have limited, or no say. Additionally, on issues concerning national development and lobbying for funding and other key considerations, I see it being essential that the territories have a representative in Parliament. This representative can be instrumental in assisting with advocacy for the territory they represent, asking relevant questions that will assist in highlighting the plight of the dependent territories towards gathering wider attention and a parliamentary voice.
According to Mr Rosindell, who chairs the UK's All-Party Parliamentary Group on the British Overseas Territories, "We give our 21 territories nothing. All they have is an informal all-party group, of which I am proud to be chairman. We have a democratic hole, with hundreds of thousands of people for whom we make laws, whom we ultimately govern and on whose behalf we can declare war, make foreign policy and sign international treaties. We have substantial control over their domestic affairs. Those territories that have sterling are bound by much of our own economic policy. In a range of areas, although the Crown Dependencies and Overseas Territories are not part of the UK they are substantially influenced and ultimately governed by this Parliament, so it is wrong for them to have no voice at all."
Based on Mr Rosindell's statements, I can only see a parliamentary representative further cementing a 21st century relationship that is forthright with action and less rhetoric. MNI Alive is hoping that this issue moves beyond mention and towards discussion, rationalization and ultimate implementation.
Mr Rosindell has insisted that the year of the Queen's Diamond Jubilee was an appropriate time by principle that 'at the very least' the UK Parliament gives recognition to these jurisdictions.
The Crown Dependencies to be affected will include Isle of Man and Channel Islands: Baliwick of Jersey, Baliwick of Guernsey (includes Guernsey and its dependencies)
The Overseas Territories that will be affected if Mr Rosindell's idea becomes reality are Anguilla, Bermuda, British Antarctic Territory, British Indian Ocean Territory, British Virgin Islands, Cayman Islands, Falkland Islands, Gibraltar, Montserrat, Pitcairn, Henderson, Ducie and Oeno Islands, St Helena and St Helena Dependencies (Ascension and Tristan da Cunha), South Georgia and South Sandwich Islands, Sovereign Base Areas of Akrotiri and Dhekelia and The Turks & Caicos Islands.
Photo Credit To Denning Law
Jeevan Robinson is Founder & Editor-in-Chief of MNI Alive. He can be reached firstname.lastname@example.org