FCO: Balance of Power Between the UK and Overseas Territories Is the Right One

The Foreign and Commonwealth Office believes the current balance of power between the UK and its overseas territories is broadly the right one.

It made the conclusion in submissions to the House of Commons Foreign Affairs Select Committee, ahead of this week’s hearings by the committee reviewing the relationship with the UK and the British Overseas Territories.

In the submission, the FCO made clear that while it understands the concerns some leaders have about the proposed imposition of public registers in their jurisdictions, it is unlikely that Britain will be giving up its power to legislate for its remaining colonies.

The constitutions in Montserrat and other OT’s give the UK a blanket right to legislate for its territories, even in areas that have been devolved to local governments, when Britain believes its own interests are at risk.

In the document, the FCO makes it clear that remaining British is a choice that comes with conditions.

According to the 12-page submission the UK government believes the current constitutional balance of powers is broadly the right one.

It says as sovereign power; the UK must retain sufficient powers to enable it to discharge its constitutional and international responsibilities both to OT populations and in international fora.

The Sanctions and Anti-Money Laundering Act passed in May, now requires all territories to introduce a register before the end of 2020 that will allow public access to information about who actually benefits from the companies domiciled in Montserrat and the other overseas territories providing financial services.

It also recognizes “the ill-feeling created in the OTs” in the wake of the law’s passage in parliament earlier this year.

The document submitted by the FCO talks largely in broad terms about its relationship with the territories and its obligations to them, from security to assisting territories to meet challenges and opportunities.

But it also notes the obligations that territories have on issues such as environmental protection, good governance and human rights, and notes that while several territories have already passed laws to introduce same-sex partnerships, its Caribbean territories have been slow to implement any kind of marriage equality for same-sex couples.