Photo Credit: Clifton Skelton/BVI Platinum News
The United Kingdom’s (UK) Foreign Affairs Select Committee has submitted its report on the inquiry into the relationship between the UK and Overseas Territories (OTs), with sweeping changes being proposed, including for a date to be set for all OTs, including the BVI, to legalize same-sex marriages.
The UK parliamentary committee submitted its report entitled, ‘House of Commons Foreign Affairs Committee Global Britain and the British Overseas Territories: Resetting the Relationship Fifteenth Report of Session 2017–19', yesterday, Wednesday, February 20.
The committee, among other things, proposes that Belongership be removed and a date set for the implementation of the controversial public register.
Based on past decisions, this committee is known for its significant influence both on foreign policy and on the activities of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, and its recommendations are taken seriously by the UK Government.
This report comes days before the BVI is about to hold general elections. Whatever happens on polling day, February 25, the BVI will have a new Premier, who will have to take on these new proposals from the UK.
All OTs were given an opportunity last year to make submissions to the committee in order for those views to be considered, and the BVI made submissions.
Among the report’s recommendations, the committee calls on the UK Government to: commission an independent review into cross-government engagement with the Overseas Territories, to include FCO management of its responsibilities and consider the costs, benefits and risks of moving primary responsibility for the OTs away from the Foreign Office; consider a new formal mechanism by which members of the relevant select committees can scrutinise the UK Government’s administration of, expenditure on and policy towards the OTs; set a date by which it expects all OTs to have legalised same-sex marriage - the UK Government must be prepared to intervene through legislation or an Order in Council if the date is not met.
Further, it recommends to phase out Belongership and its local equivalents, which make it impossible for some British citizens in the OTs to vote or hold elected office; provide a clear and detailed timetable for the publication of registers of beneficial ownership in each OT – in line with Parliament’s recognition that this is a matter of national security; provide clarity on funding for the OTs, including any lost EU funding, based on a ‘clear-eyed assessment’ of how the UK will balance the needs of individual OTs against value for money for UK taxpayers-this should include exploring options for a dedicated development and stimulus fund to allow for the long-term, sustainable development of aid-dependent territories.
“Address concerns in the OTs about the issue of citizenship by descent and anomalies in the British Nationality Act.”
Chair of committee, Tom Tugendhat MP commented that for the Overseas Territories, Global Britain is a living reality, pointing out that each OT is unique, but all of them take great pride in their British identities and their strong bonds with the UK.
"The UK and the OTs are family, but that relationship must be underpinned by shared duties to each other and values. That is why we call for the UK Government to reconsider the relationship and are critical of Belongership and its equivalents. We also call on the OTs which have not yet done so to legalise same sex marriage,” Tugendhat said.
The MP went on to state that now is the time to tackle tensions and reset the relationship.
He said that they are calling for Government to step back and take a considered view of how they engage with each other.
"Providing certainty for the OTs will strengthen our ties. Just as we must stick to the date Parliament set as part of the Sanctions and Anti-Money Laundering Act 2018, we must reopen the discussion on the best way to manage the relationships between us will give voice to the Overseas Territories in Whitehall so that future changes required by our shared security include wider input from the Overseas Territories,” Tugendhat stated.
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