British Overseas Territories, inclusive of the British Virgin Islands, have little appetite for greater political independence.
This is one of the conclusions which has emerged from research being conducted by Territorial At Large Representative Carvin Malone surrounding the “One BVI Agenda”.
Though some may disagree with the statement, and themselves believe that the territory has a growing hunger for independence and greater political autonomy, Malone lamented that he had to agree with published research on the topic which suggests that these are the views of a minority.
“They’ve said that if you put it to a vote today in each and every one of the territories you’ll fail… I’m saying if you put it to the vote today, we’ll fail… we will fail because the governance of our people, by our people – our people don’t trust us to do this,” he said.
One supporting document of Malone’s statements is the Fifteenth Report of Session 2017-19 of the House of Commons Foreign Affairs Committee, titled “Global Britain and the British Overseas Territories: Resetting the relationship”.
The report noted, in item 3 of its introduction, that the UK’s relationships with the Overseas Territories have been under the spotlight in recent years for several reasons including: the Brexit vote in 2016 and its potentially seismic impact for several Overseas Territories; Hurricanes Irma and Maria in 2017; and the consideration in and approval by Parliament in 2018 of the Sanctions and Anti Money Laundering Act requiring registers of beneficial ownership to be published in the Overseas territories – a move which was criticised by some overseas territories as unconstitutional.
Despite these areas of concern and disagreement over the years, the UK commissioned report maintained that the territories are proud to remain British Overseas Territories, and stated that “the evidence we received suggests that for many people in the OTs, Global Britain is a living reality. These territories are not part of the UK, but they see themselves as members of a Global British family”.
Other noted evidence in this report, however, did find that this was not a universal feeling.
Former Governor of Bermuda George Fergusson is quoted as expressing that “there will always be a degree of confusion and pushing and pulling” and that the relationships between the United Kingdom and the Overseas Territories are “almost fated to be difficult”. This he explained is because each territory differs in what relationship it wants from the UK, and while some indeed want some more autonomy, others want to be closer to the UK, and the remainder seems to be happy with the status quo.
It was Dr. Peter Clegg of the University of West England who was quoted as saying that there is little appetite in the Overseas Territories for Independence, and suggesting that there is a general satisfaction with the existing status quo despite occasional difficulties in relations.
Malone, speaking on the history of political advancement of the region, said in the past the BVI has had the opportunity to break away from the UK but chose not to. Now, decades later, as other former British Territories in the region advance to a Republic, he questions the BVI’s next step.
“From 1962, the West Indian Act, when we broke away from the federation, we had a choice either to go and I call it “semi-independence, because the queen is still the particular sovereign body of most of these, Antigua, Saint Vincent and a number of other places. We had that choice, we decided to stay where we are”, he said.
He added, “What I’m saying is what is our next step?… In my research, it is said that the UK has felt that whether it is Bermuda, Turks and Caicos, Caymans, BVI, Anguilla, Montserrat, it does not seem that there is any appetite by the majority of the population to go that other step. They would rather stay as British Overseas Territories without removing the particular governor as the one who represents the queen and the UK.”
Malone noted that this threatens the already adjusted timelines of C 24, the Special Committee convened by the United Nations on the Situation with regard to the implementation of the Declaration on the Granting of Independence to Colonial Countries and Peoples, and the 2030 agenda.
“It is saying that at the C 24, you have this 2030 agenda. We have moved it a number of times and you’re going to have to move it again because there’s no appetite from the majority within each of these territories for further political advancement,” Malone explained.