The Falkland Islands, Gibraltar and Britain’s other Overseas Territories should be given a seat in the Commons, UK Independent Party MEP Nigel Farage said on Tuesday. The UKIP leader claims their voices are dangerously ‘muted’ in Britain and they should be allowed to elect their own ‘MP for the Territories’, following on the French experience.
Member of the European Parliament Farage pointed to France, which reserves seats in both of its houses of Parliament for dependencies including Reunion, Guadeloupe and French Polynesia. Likewise last year France elected its first MP for Britain because London has so many French expatriates.
Both Gibraltar and the Falklands have ‘big neighbors behaving with increasing belligerence’, Mr Farage said. ‘The voice of these lands, however, is muted in London. They have shown us loyalty: isn’t it about time we reciprocated?’
There are 14 overseas territories, parts of the former British Empire that “have not acquired independence or have voted to stay British”. Collectively, the territories have a population of 260,000 people and a land area of approximately 667,000 square miles.
“Let us copy the French. Give the Crown dependencies a House of Commons seat, so that their voice can be heard in the chamber and at the top table of British politics”, insisted MEP Farage.
The current minister responsible for the British Territories is Mark Simmonds, of the Foreign Office. Gibraltar, however, is the responsibility of the Minister for Europe David Lidington, while the Falklands are the responsibility of Hugo Swire, another Foreign Office minister.
But MEP Farage said that the French National Assembly had 27 seats reserved for its overseas dependencies, with 21 representatives in its other legislative house, the Senate. He suggests one ‘MP for the territories’ should represent all of Britain’s overseas territories.
‘Before anybody says that the combined population for these territories would make this difficult we must remember that the old Western Islands seat now called ‘a h-Eileanan an Iar’, has a population of less than Gibraltar alone,’ the UKIP leader insisted.
MEP Farage then pointed to an unhappy historic precedent: when Malta was declined three MPs in the House of Commons and went on to break away from Britain.
“Before Malta became independent it was offered full integration with the UK, including three MPs. A referendum was held in 1956 on the island and 77% voted in favor of the proposal”, he said. “Sadly the turnout was only 60% - how we long for turnouts of 60% today - and under the rules of the time the result was regarded as void”.
“Britain rejected the result, Malta didn’t get the MPs, slowly the path was set and its government became increasingly anti British, setting up deals with Gaddafi and becoming a republic”.
“If the UK had had the wit at the time to accept that referendum, welcome Maltese MPs and integrate fully Malta would be a contented part of the UK. So let us take up the challenge, and welcome those far-flung parts of the Queen’s territories as full members of our family”, concluded MEP Farage.
Farage is leader of the UKIP since 2010, having held that position from September 2006 to November 2009. Since 1999, he has been a Member of the European Parliament for South East England and co-chairs the Europe of Freedom and Democracy group. He abandoned the Conservative Party in 1992 after the signing of the Maastricht Treaty.