What are the British Overseas Territories?
The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland is mainly located in Europe, between Great Britain and the Northern part of Ireland, but the UK is much more than that. The British empire was once the greatest empire on earth, an empire that disappeared with the decolonization process in the mid-20s. Still, the UK retained some pieces of land all around the globe, the denominated British Overseas Territories. They are 14, and all have a high level of self-governing, the UK only playing the defense and foreign relations tasks in these territories, as they are not considered as part of the UK itself, but the head of state being the same as in the UK and other commonwealth states: Her Majesty The Queen Elizabeth the second and most of the population having a British passport (Cawley, C. 2015)
How was the Brexit process on these territories?
Brexit is the process by which the United Kingdom prepares for leaving the European Union. The decision over Brexit has been summoned over a national referendum in the constituent countries of the UK: England, Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland, and taking place in Gibraltar, the only British overseas territory included in the referendum (Horton, R. 2016). But the rest of the overseas territories were not included as they are not considered a part of the UK. It could be argued that also because of their far proximity to the European Union and its members, these territories are not considered part of the UK. So, they had no right to vote, but their citizens, as mentioned before, have a British passport. Their lives are conditioned by the decisions taken in London as much as the people who live inside the UK because the economies of their territories change according to the regulations and laws established in London.
The Impact of Brexit with the example of Anguilla:
In the beginning, it might be difficult to think how there could be such a significant economic change in a territory that is located thousands of kilometers away from the closest European Union nation member. Perhaps, the truth is that these nations are closer than what people think. To make it easier to understand, the example that is going to be used is Anguilla, a British overseas territory located in the Caribbean Sea, with a small population of fifty thousand people approx. and with a generally negative opinion about Brexit, with two main determinant factors: the economic factor and the social factor (“Beaches and borders; Brexit in the Caribbean”, 2018). Inside the financial aspect, this island is heavily reliant on the neighboring land of Saint Martin, a French overseas territory and a part of the European Union. This island gives much of the health and transport assistance to the Anguillan population, without any bureaucratic barriers that now are established and are affecting the processes by slowing them or denying requests. Some people suggest that the financial catastrophe that Brexit will mean to the island will be worse in the long term than the 2017 hurricane that passed through the region. Inside the social factor, the population is going to be affected by a large number of travel restrictions to the neighboring islands, that include a high number of French and Netherlander overseas territories and that later, the Brexit will require a visa for living and working, also because of the trips to mainland continental Europe, where a high amount of people living in territories like Anguilla have family members residing inside the EU, because of the better working conditions and benefits (Bishop, M.L. & Clegg, P. 2018).
I believe that these territories should have had some right to decide their future inside the Brexit process as they are heavily dependent on the UK and have no right to determine their fate. This will bring a slew of challenges to their shores that they may not be prepared to deal with.
- “Beaches and borders; Brexit in the Caribbean”, 2018, The Economist (London), vol. 428, no. 9104, pp. 23.
- Bishop, M.L. & Clegg, P. 2018, “Brexit: Challenges and Opportunities for Small Countries and Territories”, Round table (London), vol. 107, no. 3, pp. 329-339.
- Cawley, C. 2015, Colonies in Conflict: The History of the British Overseas Territories, Cambridge Scholars Publisher, Newcastle-upon-Tyne.
- Horton, R. 2016, “Offline: The meanings of Brexit”, The Lancet (British edition), vol. 388, no. 10039, pp. 14-14.