May 16, 2023

UK Parliament Affirms OTs Relationship

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Members of the UK Parliament from across the political spectrum participated in a debate on Thursday 11 May tabled by the Chair of the Foreign Affairs Committee, Alicia Kearns MP, on the motion that “That this House is committed to upholding the interests of British Overseas Territories and their citizens; recognises the special historical, cultural, and social bonds that bind the United Kingdom and Overseas Territories; and calls upon the Government to ensure that British Overseas Territories citizens’ rights as British citizens are upheld, to defend the sovereignty and borders of Overseas Territories from foreign powers, and to consider the unique circumstances of each Territory when formulating policies which affect them.”

Alicia Kearns MP specifically noted the work of the Cayman Islands Government on issues relating to beneficial ownership and the implementation of sanctions regimes. “In the Cayman Islands, for example, the central register has a 24-hour response time to information requests from law enforcement, and $8.8 billion dollars of Russian assets were frozen following the illegal renewed invasion of Ukraine. We know how important such information is to support sanctions against not just Russia but all terrorist and autocratic actors,” she said.

Referencing the Cayman Islands, Stephen Doughty MP, the Shadow Minister for Overseas Territories, spoke of the conservation efforts undertaken by Overseas Territories: “Our overseas territories play a crucial role, whether that be the marine protected area in the Pitcairn Islands, the national climate change policy of the Turks and Caicos Islands, St Helena’s blue green agenda, Montserrat wanting to invest in renewable energy and dealing with the legacy of the volcanic eruption, or the Cayman Islands’ conservation efforts. They play a crucial role not only in contributing to our climate change agenda and biodiversity but dealing first hand with the impact of climate change.” 


James Sunderland MP, Vice Chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on the British Overseas Territories, stated that “the Overseas Territories are a vital part of our UK family. They are strategically essential in terms of footprint basing and geography, but they are also essential to the projection of UK soft power around the world. They have a common language and culture, they have similar hopes and aspirations and we must not underestimate or take for granted their value to the UK.”

Responding to the debate for the Government, David Rutley MP, the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Affairs, told the House: “I welcome the opportunity to recognise the UK’s long-standing and deep partnership with our Overseas Territories.”

The Minister noted in the debate that Prime Minister Rishi Sunak had recently asked each relevant Cabinet Minister to nominate a lead Minister responsible for the Overseas Territories within their Department. Lord Goldsmith, the Minister for Overseas Territories, will convene a regular meeting of those Ministers as a ministerial group, to ensure that the UK meets its constitutional responsibilities.

The debate was well subscribed with senior MPs, including three select committee chairs, from all of the main political parties noting the special bond between the UK and the Overseas Territories. 

The debate took place as part of a Backbench Business Debate – a method by which Parliamentarians can raise an issue for discussion in the chamber. The motion, which is general rather than substantive, is an opportunity for backbench MPs to voice their opinions. The Government formally responds to the motion to state its position, but no votes are taken, policy decisions announced or legislation passed. The House of Commons unanimously passed the motion.

Commenting on the debate, UK Representative Dr. Tasha Ebanks-Garcia noted: 

“It was important to observe the debate in the House of Commons on behalf of the Cayman Islands Government which took place as the Premier and our delegation were participating in the JMC. There is a demonstrable commitment to Britain’s Overseas Territories from Members of Parliament on all sides of the House of Commons.”

“A critical part of my role as UK Representative is to share facts, key information and concerns from the perspective of the Cayman Islands with Members of Parliament in the UK.  I was therefore pleased to hear the public recognition of our Government’s work to support global law enforcement and implement Russia sanctions. It was also helpful to hear advocacy on our behalf for improving the process for Caymanian students who hold BOTC passports to attain UK visas.”

Alicia Kearns MP, Chair of the Foreign Affairs Committee, said in a statement: 

“The UK is blessed to have a global family in the Overseas Territories and our successes working together are truly impressive, not least of all in protecting millions of acres of ocean and countless rare species, both on land and sea. I was pleased to lead a debate in the House of Commons on this precious relationship and to raise the issues with the Government that OTs face.” 

“It was particularly important that the debate was held on the day of the Joint Ministerial Council so Ministers could appreciate how much support exists for OTs in the House of Commons. The debate saw many positive suggestions raised and I am full of optimism for the future of British OTs.”

For any questions, queries, or additional information, please contact Lauren Anderton at [email protected] or on +44 207 491 7772.

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