- British overseas territories
The British Overseas Territories are fourteen territories that are under the
sovereigntyof the United Kingdom, but which do not form part of the United Kingdom itself. [http://www.fco.gov.uk/servlet/Front?pagename=OpenMarket/Xcelerate/ShowPage&c=Page&cid=1013618138295 The 14 Territories] ]
The name British Overseas Territory was introduced by the
British Overseas Territories Act 2002, and replaced the name British-Dependent Territory, which was introduced by the British Nationality Act 1981. Before that, the territories were known as colonies or Crown colonies. The British Overseas Territories are also referred to as overseas territories of the United Kingdom, [ [https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/geos/fk.html CIA - The World Factbook - Falkland Islands (Islas Malvinas) ] ] UK overseas territories, [ [http://www.fco.gov.uk/servlet/Front?pagename=OpenMarket/Xcelerate/ShowPage&c=Page&cid=1007029394365&a=KCountryProfile&aid=1018965238550 UK overseas territories] ] or, when the context is clear, simply the Overseas Territories.
The territories of
Jersey, Guernsey, and the Isle of Man, though also under the sovereignty of the British Crown, have a slightly different constitutional relationship with the United Kingdom, and are consequently classed as Crown dependenciesrather than Overseas Territories. Territories and dependencies are distinct from the Commonwealth of Nations, a voluntary association of former British coloniesand latterly other nations such as Mozambiquethat have joined because of the benefits it offers.
In a historical context, colonies should be distinguished from
protectorates and protected states, which though under British control, were nominally independent states, whereas colonies were part of the British stateFact|date=April 2008. They should also not be confused with Dominions, which, known collectively as the "Commonwealth", were independent states, held to be equal in sovereign status to the United Kingdom within the Empire and Commonwealth after the Statute of Westminsterin 1931. Crown colonies, such as Hong Kong, were differentiated from other colonies in being administered directly by the Crown, without the degree of local autonomy found in self-governed colonies such as Bermuda.
The current population of all UK overseas territories is estimated at 247,899Fact|date=April 2008.
The original English colonies in the
New Worldwere plantations of English subjects in lands hitherto outside the dominions of the Crown. The first such plantation was in Newfoundland, where English fishermen routinely set up seasonal camps in the 16th century.
What later became known as the "Old Empire" began in 1607 with the settlement of Jamestown, the first successful permanent colony in "Virginia" (a term that was then applied generally to
North America). In 1609, a second colony was unintentionally established in Bermuda(as an extension of Virginia), which, with the loss of the American colonies in 1783, is the oldest British colony in existence ("English" colonies became "British" with the 1707 unification of the Kingdoms of England and Scotland to form the Kingdom of Great Britain) .
In the historical context the term "Crown colony" was used to indicate that a specific jurisdiction within the
British Empirehad their local powers revoked and all major local governance was vested in direct British governance through a Governor. [ [http://countrystudies.us/caribbean-islands/10.htm Political Traditions] ] [ [http://lcweb2.loc.gov/frd/cs/guyana/gy_glos.html Library of Congress: Federal Research Division] ]
Shortlist of jurisdictions that were previously changed to Crown colony status:
* TRI - in 1797
* DMA - in 1805
* LCA - in 1814
The growth of the
British Empirein the 19th century, to its peak in the 1920s, saw the UK acquire over one quarter of the world's land mass, including territories with large indigenous populations in Asiaand Africa, which were held for commercial and strategic reasons rather than for settlementFact|date=April 2008. The late 19th century saw the larger settler colonies — in Canada, Australia, New Zealandand South Africa— becoming self-governing colonies and achieving independence in all matters except foreign policy, defence and trade. Separate self-governing colonies federated to become Canada(in 1867) and the Commonwealth of Australia(in 1901). These and other large self-governing colonies had become known as Dominions by the 1920s. The Dominions achieved full independence with the Statute of Westminster (1931). The Empire was renamed the British Commonwealth to reflect such changes and in 1949 became known as the Commonwealth of Nations. Most of the British colonies in Africa, Asiaand the Caribbeanachieved independence. Some colonies became Commonwealth Realms, retaining the British monarch as head of state, others became republics but acknowledged Queen Elizabeth IIas Head of the Commonwealth.
The 1980s saw the United Kingdom lose its last mainland colonies, with the independence of
Southern Rhodesia(now Zimbabwe) in Africa in 1980 and British Honduras(now Belize) in Central America in 1981. The last major colony that remained was Hong Kong, with a population of over 5 million. Unlike other territories, the territory of Hong Kong had two different arrangements:
Hong Kong Islandand the Kowloon Peninsulawere ceded to Britain in perpetuity by the Treaty of Nankingand the Convention of Peking.
*An area of the Chinese mainland that became known as the
New Territorieswas leased to Britain for 99 years from 1898 to accommodate Hong Kong's growing population.
With 1997 approaching, the United Kingdom and China negotiated the
Sino-British Joint Declaration, which led to the whole of Hong Kong becoming a "special administrative region" of China in 1997, subject to various conditions intended to guarantee the preservation of Hong Kong's capitalist economy and its way of life under British rule for at least 50 years after the handoverFact|date=April 2008. This was because Hong Kong's infrastructure was significantly interconnected with that of Guangdong Province, which would make it virtually impossible for those areas ceded in perpetuity to continue functioning without importing virtually all of its necessities.
Following the return of Hong Kong, the remaining colonial possessions are generally small island territories with small populations, and the uninhabited British Antarctic Territory. The reasons for these territories not achieving independence vary, and include:
* lack of support for independence among the local population;
* a small population size making the possibility of success as a sovereign nation more difficult;
* dependence on economic aid from the UK;
* being uninhabited territories used for scientific or military purposes;
* a need for British military presence to guard against hostile neighbours;
* a lack of any economic or political justification for independence.
In 2002, the UK Parliament passed the
British Overseas Territories Act 2002. This reclassified the UK's dependent territories as "Overseas Territories" and, with the exception of those people solely connected with the Sovereign Base Areasof Cyprus, restored full British citizenship to their inhabitants.
It was once said that "the sun never sets on the British Empire" [ [http://www.friesian.com/british.htm The Sun Never Set on the British Empire ] ] , and the British Overseas Territories still extend to every geographic region of the World, with the Caribbean Overseas Territories in
North America, The Falklands in South America, Saint Helena and Dependencies in Africa, Pitcairn in Oceania, Gibraltar in Europe, British Indian Ocean Territory in Asia, and South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands in Antarctica.
Current Overseas Territories
Head of State
The head of state in the Overseas Territories is the
British monarch, currently Queen Elizabeth II. The Queen's role in the territories is in her role as Queen of the United Kingdom, and not in right of each territory. The Queen appoints a representative in each territory to exercise her executive power. In territories with a permanent population, a Governoris appointed by the Queen on the advice of the British Government, usually a retired senior military officer, or a senior civil servant. In territories without a permanent population, a Commissioner is usually appointed to represent the Queen. For Overseas Territories with dependencies, the Governor may appoint an Administrator to represent him or her in that dependencyFact|date=April 2008.
The role of the Governor is to act as the "de facto"
head of state, and they are usually responsible for appointing the head of government, and senior political positions in the territory. The Governor is also responsible for liaising with the UK Government, and carrying out any ceremonial duties. A Commissioner has the same powers as a Governor, but also acts as the head of government.
All the Overseas Territories have their own system of government, and localised laws. The structure of the government appears to be closely correlated to the size and political development of the territory.
Each Overseas Territory has its own legal system independent of the United Kingdom. The legal system is generally based on
English common law, with some distinctions for local circumstances. Each territory has its own Attorney General, and court system. For the smaller territories, the UK may appoint a UK-based lawyer or judge to work on legal cases. This is particularly important for cases involving serious crimes and where it is impossible to find a jury who will not know the defendant in a small population islandFact|date=April 2008.
Pitcairn rape trial of 2004is an example of how the UK may choose to provide the legal framework for particular cases where the territory cannot do so alone.
Relations with the UK
Foreign and Commonwealth Officehas the responsibility of looking after the interests of all Overseas Territories except one. The Overseas Territory Department is headed by the Foreign Office Minister for the Overseas Territories, currently the Parliamentary Under Secretary of State Meg Munn. The exception is the Sovereign Base Areas territory, which comes under the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Defence.
In 1999, the FCO published the [http://www.fco.gov.uk/servlet/Front?pagename=OpenMarket/Xcelerate/ShowPage&c=Page&cid=1018028164839 Partnership for Progress and Prosperity: Britain and the Overseas Territories] report which set out the UK's policy for the Overseas Territories, covering four main areas:
* Responsibilities of the UK and the territories
* Democratic autonomy
* Provision for help and assistance
The UK and the Overseas Territories do not have diplomatic representations, although the governments of the Overseas Territories with indigenous populations (except Bermuda) all retain a representative office in
London. The [http://www.ukota.org/default.asp United Kingdom Overseas Territories Association (UKOTA)] also represents the interests of the territories in London.
The UK provides financial assistance to the Overseas Territories via the
Department of International Development. Currently only Montserrat and Saint Helena receive budgetary aid (ie financial contribution to recurrent funding). Several specialist funds are made available by the UK, including:
* The [http://www.fco.gov.uk/servlet/Front?pagename=OpenMarket/Xcelerate/ShowPage&c=Page&cid=1013618138375 Good Government Fund] which provides assistance on government administration;
* The [http://www.fco.gov.uk/servlet/Front?pagename=OpenMarket/Xcelerate/ShowPage&c=Page&cid=1125563803151 Economic Diversification Programme Budget] which aim to diversify and enhance the economic bases of the territories
Foreign Affairs of the Overseas Territories are handled by the
Foreign and Commonwealth Officein London. However some territories maintain diplomatic officers in nearby countries for trade and immigration purposes. Several of the Caribbean territories maintain membership of the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean Statesand the Caribbean Community. None of the territories is a member of the Commonwealth of Nations, although they do take part in the Commonwealth Games. Gibraltaris the only Overseas Territory that is part of the European Union(EU), although it is not part of the customs union and is not a member in its own right. None of the other Overseas Territories are members of the EU, and the main body of EU law does not apply and, although certain slices of EU law are applied to those territories as part of the EU's Association of Overseas Countries and Territories(OCT Association), they are not commonly enforceable in local courts. The OCT Association also provides Overseas Territories with structural funding for regeneration projects.
Since the return of full British citizenship to most 'belongers' of Overseas Territories (mainly since the
British Overseas Territories Act 2002), the citizens of those territories hold concurrent European Union citizenship, giving them rights of free movement across all EU member states.
Several nations dispute the UK's sovereignty in the following Overseas Territories:
British Antarctic Territory— Territory overlaps Antarctic claims made by Chileand Argentina(though under the Antarctic Treaty System, these claims are not disputed)
British Indian Ocean Territory— claimed by Mauritiusand Seychelles
Falkland Islands— claimed by Argentina
Gibraltar— claimed by Spain
South Georgiaand the South Sandwich Islands— claimed by Argentina
Sovereign Base Areas of Akrotiri and Dhekelia— claimed by Cyprus
None of the Overseas Territories have their own nationality status, and all citizens are classed as
British Overseas Territories citizens (BOTC). They do however, have legislative independence over immigration, and holding the status of a BOTC does not automatically give a person a right to abode in any of the territories, as it depends on the territory's immigration laws. A territory may issue Belonger statusto allow a person classed as a BOTC to reside in the territory that they have close links with. Non-BOTC citizens may acquire Belonger status in order to reside in a particular territory (and may subsequently become naturalised BOTC if they wish).
Historically, most inhabitants of the former British Empire held the status of
British subject, which was usually lost upon independence. From 1949, British subjects in the United Kingdom and the remaining crown colonies became citizens of the United Kingdom and Colonies. However changes in British immigration and nationality law between 1962 and 1983 saw the creation of a separate British Dependent Territories citizenship with effect from January, 1983. Citizens in most territories were stripped of full British citizenship. This was mainly to prevent a mass exodus of the citizens of Hong Kongto the UK before the agreed handover to Chinain 1997. Exception was made for the Falkland Islands, which had been invaded the previous year by Argentina. Full British citizenship was soon returned to the people of Gibraltardue to their friction with Spain.
British Overseas Territories Act 2002replaced dependent territory citizenship with British Overseas Territories citizenship, and restored full British citizenship to all BOTCs except those from the Sovereign Base Areas of Cyprus. This restored to BOTCs the right to reside in the UK.
British citizens do not, however, have an automatic right to reside in any of the Overseas Territories. Some territories prohibit immigration, and any visitors are required to seek the permission of the territory's government to live in the territory. As they are used primarily as military bases,
Ascension Islandand the British Indian Ocean Territorydo not allow visitors to the territory unless on official business.
Defence of the Overseas Territories is the responsibility of the UK. Many of the Overseas Territories are used as military bases by the UK and its allies.
* Ascension Island (a dependency of
Saint Helena) - the Base (formerly known as RAF Ascension Island) is used by both the Royal Air Forceand the United States Air Force.
* Bermuda - became the primary
Royal Navybase in the Western Hemisphere, following US independence. The Naval establishment included an admiralty, a dockyard, and a naval squadron. A considerable military garrison was built up to protect it, and Bermuda, which the British Government came to see as a base, rather than as a colony, was known as the "Gibraltar of the West" [http://www.avalanchepress.com/FortressBermuda.php] . Canada and the USA also established bases in Bermuda during the Second World War, which were maintained through the Cold War. Since 1995, the military force in Bermuda has been reduced to the local territorial battalion, the Bermuda Regiment.
* British Indian Ocean Territory - the island of
Diego Garciais home to a large naval base and airbase leased to the United States by the United Kingdom until 2036 (unless renewed), but that either government can opt out of the agreement in 2016.
Falkland Islands- the British Forces Falkland Islands includes commitments from the British Army, Royal Air Forceand Royal Navy.
* Gibraltar - a
Royal Navydockyard, also used by NATO. RAF Gibraltaris used by the RAF and NATO. The local garrison is manned by the Royal Gibraltar Regiment.
* The Sovereign Base Areas of
Akrotiri and Dhekeliain Cyprus- maintained as strategic British military bases in the eastern Mediterranean Sea.
ymbols and insignia
Each Overseas Territory has been granted its own
flagand coat of armsby the British monarch. Traditionally, the flags follow the Blue Ensigndesign, with the Union Flagin the canton, and the territory's coat of arms in the fly. Exceptions to this are Bermuda which uses a Red Ensign; British Antarctic Territory which uses a White Ensign; British Indian Ocean Territory which uses a Blue Ensign with wavy lines to symbolise the sea; and Gibraltar which uses a banner of its coat of arms (the flag of the city of Gibraltar). Gibraltar's coat of arms is unique in that it is the only armorial insignia that dates from before the period of British colonial administrationFact|date=April 2008.
The Sovereign Base Areas of Akrotiri and Dhekelia are the only British Overseas Territories without an official flag of their own. The
Union Flagis used in this territory and is also used for Ascension Island.
British Overseas Territories Act 2002
British Overseas Territories citizen
Foreign and Commonwealth Office
Secretary of State for the Colonies
* Harry Ritchie: "The Last Pink Bits"
* Simon Winchester: "Outposts: Travel to the Remains of the British Empire" (published in 1985 in the UK as "Outposts: Journeys to the Surviving Relics of the British Empire" also in the US as "The Sun Never Sets: Travels to the Remaining Outposts of the British Empire".)
* George Drower: "Britain's Dependent Territories", Dartmouth, 1992
* George Drower: "Overseas Territories Handbook", TSO, 1998
* Boromé, Joseph. 'How Crown Colony Government Came to Dominica by 1898'. In Aspects of Dominican History (Roseau, Dominica, 1972), 120-50.
* [http://books.google.com/books?id=kesL--n3YN4C&pg=PA58&lpg=PA58&dq=Crown+colony+Dominica&source=web&ots=8vMkOYuHYd&sig=lg8iwt3r9z6Y9UiPBKkwLqT6SOQ&hl=en&sa=X&oi=book_result&resnum=10&ct=result The Caribbean in the Wider World, 1492-1992 By Bonham C. Richardson]
* [http://www.fco.gov.uk/servlet/Front?pagename=OpenMarket/Xcelerate/ShowPage&c=Page&cid=1013618138295 Foreign and Commonwealth Office- "UK Overseas Territories"]
* [http://www.direct.gov.uk/Gtgl1/GuideToGovernment/InternationalBodies/InternationalBodiesArticles/fs/en?CONTENT_ID=4003092&chk=JXlogH The Commonwealth] - UK government site
* [http://www.casahistoria.net/decolonisation.htm Decolonisation] - History links for the end of the European formal Empires, casahistoria.net
* [http://www.ukotcf.org/ UK Overseas Territories Conservation Forum]
* [http://www.opsi.gov.uk/acts/acts2002/20008--a.htm British Overseas Territories Act 2002- Text of the Act]
* [http://www.ukota.org/ United Kingdom Overseas Territories Association]
* [http://www.britlink.org/territories.html Britlink - The British Overseas Territories]
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