September 19, 2020

UK Government Publishes White Paper on the Overseas Territories


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The United Kingdom (UK) will be keeping a much more close watch on its UK territories than it has done in the past especially on finances, good governance and the potential for corruption across the last remnants of empire. In exchange, they will offer more expertise to the territories local governments from across the whole of the UK administration.

This was revealed with this release from the Cayman Islands Governor’s Office:

The UK Government renews and strengthens Britain’s relationship with the Overseas Territories today (28) with the publication of its White Paper, “The Overseas Territories: Security, Success and Sustainability”.

It can be downloaded at:

Foreign Secretary, William Hague said:

“Today’s White Paper is the first review of the UK’s relationship with the Overseas Territories since 1999 and it demonstrates the importance the Coalition Government attaches to the Overseas Territories.

“As well as having a responsibility to ensure the security and good governance of the Territories, we want the Territories to be vibrant, flourishing communities that proudly retain aspects of their British identity. 

We appreciate the remarkable diversity of the Territories, each with their own specific attributes, opportunities and challenges. This White Paper is designed to meet these challenges, to set out ways we can support the Territories and strengthen our engagement with them. It is another major milestone in our long and shared history, and I hope it will mark a new era of engagement between Britain and the Overseas Territories.”

This White Paper focuses on three goals: strengthening engagement between the UK and the Territories; working with the Territories to strengthen good governance, public financial management and economic planning where this is necessary; and improving the quality and range of support available to the Territories.

The White Paper was developed across government departments and in consultation with the people and governments of the Territories.  In the year in which Britain and the Territories celebrate the Diamond Jubilee of Her Majesty The Queen, it sends an important signal of long-term engagement.

The Overseas Territories are incredibly diverse; they include thousands of small islands, vast areas of ocean, but also, in Antarctica, land six times the size of the United Kingdom.  They include one of the world’s richest communities, in Bermuda; and the most remote community, in Tristan da Cunha.  They are internationally recognised for their exceptionally rich and varied natural environments. They are home to an estimated 90% of the biodiversity found within the UK and the Territories combined and include two of the world’s largest Marine Protected Areas.

The release we received from the Governor’s Office included these note:

The Government set out its Strategy towards the Overseas Territories in a Written Ministerial Statement on 14 September 2011.

The FCO conducted a public consultation on the Overseas Territories strategy from September 2011 to January 2012. The results were published in March 2012 can be found on the FCO website. [available at]

The White Paper includes sections on the work of all UK Government Departments, who have published their own Papers on how they engage with the Territories. Links to Departmental papers are included in the White Paper.

On 18 June DEFRA launched the latest round of its Darwin Fund initiative which will fund further biodiversity work in the Territories []

There are fourteen UK Overseas Territories, eleven of which have permanent populations.   Anguilla, the British Virgin Islands, the Cayman Islands, Montserrat and the Turks and Caicos Islands are all in the Caribbean.

Bermuda is in the North Atlantic Ocean.

The Falkland Islands and the Territory of St Helena, Ascension and Tristan da Cunha are located in the South Atlantic.

Pitcairn, with a population of less than 60 people, is the only Territory in the Pacific.

Gibraltar is the only Territory in the EU.  The Sovereign Base Areas of Akrotiri and Dhekilia in Cyprus are an Overseas Territory but are not formally part of the EU.

The remaining Territories, i.e. the British Antarctic Territory, the British Indian Ocean Territory, and South Georgia & the South Sandwich Islands (in the South Atlantic) do not have permanent populations.

The White Paper covers defence and security issues; economic diversification; the environment; good governance; and external relations, as well as focussing on the communities of the Territories.

Release ends

On the fco website it says under the heading “The Overseas Territories: Security, Success and Sustainability”:

The UK Government’s vision is for the Territories to be vibrant and flourishing communities, proudly retaining aspects of their British identity and generating wider opportunities for their people.

This White Paper sets out how we are working to realise our vision for the Territories. It contains links to papers that all UK Government Departments have written on how they are engaging with the Territories. The White Paper also celebrates the diversity, successes and opportunities in the Territories.

Prime Minister David Cameron said:

“This Government is ambitious for our Territories as we are ambitious for the United Kingdom. This White Paper sets out our commitment to work with the Territories to address the challenges we face together. This is a commitment from across the UK Government.”

Foreign Secretary William Hague said:

“We and Territory Governments share significant challenges: building more diverse and resilient economies; cutting public sector deficits; regulating finance businesses effectively; and protecting biodiversity and natural resources.”


Introduction: Small communities, big societies

The UK Government’s vision for the Overseas Territories is for them to be vibrant and flourishing communities, proudly retaining aspects of their British identity and generating wider opportunities for their people; and for the uninhabited Territories to be world leaders in environmental conservation and management. The Overseas Territories White Paper sets out how we are working with the Territories to further this vision.

Defence, security and safety

The UK sees its responsibility for the defence, security and safety of the Overseas Territories as a core task of Government. We work with Territory Governments to counter external threats, international terrorism and organised crime and to ensure the safety and security of air and sea links. This work engages a number of UK Departments including the Ministry of Defence, the Department for International Development, the Department for Transport and the Home Office and its agencies.

Successful and resilient economies

The Overseas Territories have made considerable strides over the last decade in their economic development. Although many Territories have limited natural resources and few have manufacturing industries they have recognised the need to diversify their economies. The UK Government will continue to work with the Territories to help them develop their economies.

Cherishing the Environment

The UK Government wishes to ensure that the rich environmental assets of the Overseas Territories, for which they are internationally recognised, are cherished. The Territories are home to many species and environments found nowhere else in the world – including an estimated 90% of the biodiversity found within the UK and the Territories combined. Each of the Territories depends on these assets in some way such as for fisheries or from tourism.

Making Government work better

The UK Government has a responsibility for the overall good government of the Territories and takes a close interest in how Territory Governments discharge the functions devolved to them. Those Territories which choose to remain British should abide by the same basic standards of good government as in the UK.

Vibrant and flourishing communities

The UK Government cherishes and celebrates the rich diversity of community life in the Territories and works with Territory Governments to build vibrant and flourishing communities. Community cohesion is particularly important in small and remote island communities.

Productive links with the wider world

Realising our vision for the Overseas Territories in an increasingly interconnected world requires active engagement with other states and international organisations.The UK Government is responsible for the external relations of the Territories but we encourage Territory Governments to play an active role in building productive links with the wider world. A number of responses to the public consultation suggested that the UK and Territory Governments could do more to work together to harness international support for the Territories.

*Read more on all the Forewords at:


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