UK and Overseas Territories confirmed the principle of equal rights and self-determination plus OTs' right to develop their potential, agreed on the creation of a UK-Territories Joint Ministerial Council on European exit negotiations, and praised the recent UK-Argentina statement on the lifting of trade restrictions on the Falkland Islands.
Overseas Territories minister Baroness Anelay, and other UK cabinet ministers met at the Joint Ministerial Council at Lancaster House in London on 1 and 2 November with elected leaders and representatives from Overseas Territories to address an agenda of issues which was very much influenced by the current political situation in the UK and the current process of exiting EU.
To that respect the communiqué confirmed UK's commitment to OTs' sovereignty and countering hostile claims, reassured OTs they continue eligible to EU funding arrangements, and underlined UK's commitment to fully involve Gibraltar and the Overseas Territories as negotiations to leave the EU are in preparation.
In effect, UK ministers and OT leaders are committed to taking forward future engagement through the creation of the UK–Overseas Territories Joint Ministerial Council on European Negotiations (JMC – OT EN), to meet in the first quarter of 2017.
The case of Gibraltar is different and will engage separately with the UK on EU exit issues given its different status under the European Union Treaties.
The communiqué also makes a point to highlight the recent UK-Argentina statement on the lifting of trade restrictions on the Falkland Islands, and pledges to take into account OT priorities as the UK looks to establish future trade and investment arrangements with the wider world and to explore the inclusion of Overseas Territories in future UK bilateral investment treaties.
Follow the more political issues of the UK-OTs Joint Ministerial Council 2016 communiqué:
1. The Minister for the Overseas Territories, Baroness Anelay, and elected leaders and representatives of the Overseas Territories met as the Joint Ministerial Council (JMC)2 at Lancaster House in London on 1 and 2 November. We welcomed the attendance at the JMC of Ministers from the Departments for International Development; Exiting the European Union; International Trade; Health; Work and Pensions; and Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy and the Solicitor General, demonstrating the UK Government’s commitment to a whole of government approach to supporting the Territories.
2. Anguilla, Ascension, Bermuda, British Virgin Islands, Cayman Islands, Falkland Islands, Gibraltar, Montserrat, Pitcairn, St. Helena, the Sovereign Base Areas of Akrotiri and Dhekelia, Tristan da Cunha and Turks & Caicos Islands. The JMC is the highest forum for political dialogue and consultation between UK and elected Leaders and Representatives of the Overseas Territories for the purposes of providing leadership and promoting cooperation in areas of mutual interest.
3. The principle of equal rights and self-determination of peoples, as enshrined in the UN Charter, applies to the peoples of the Overseas Territories. We reaffirmed the importance of promoting the right of the peoples of the Territories of self-determination, a collective responsibility of all parts of the UK Government. We committed to explore ways in which the Overseas Territories can maintain international support in countering hostile sovereignty claims. For those Territories with permanent populations who wish it, the UK will continue to support requests for the removal of the Territory from the United Nations list of non-self-governing territories.
4. The UK and the Overseas Territories have a unique constitutional and historical relationship, built on a shared history, common values and a spirit of collaboration and partnership. We agreed that the fundamental structure of our constitutional relationships was the right one - powers are devolved to the elected governments of the Territories to the maximum extent possible consistent with the UK retaining those powers necessary to discharge its sovereign responsibilities. We agreed the need to continue our engagement on these issues to ensure that constitutional arrangements work effectively to promote the best interests of the Territories and of the UK.
Exit from the European Union
5. The Parliamentary Under Secretary of State at the Department for Exiting the European Union (EU) attended the JMC to discuss the challenges and opportunities for the Overseas Territories of the UK’s decision to exit the EU. The UK Government is clear that the referendum result does not change the UK Government’s position on sovereignty over the Territories. The UK reaffirmed that while the UK remains a member of the EU, current EU funding arrangements continue unchanged and clarified that where Territories are eligible for EU funds that have been covered by assurances from Her Majesty’s Treasury, those guarantees will extend to the Territories. The UK committed fully to involve Gibraltar and the Overseas Territories as we prepare for negotiations to leave the EU in accordance with their various constitutional relationships with the UK, to ensure that their priorities are taken into account. UK Ministers and OT leaders committed to taking forward future engagement through the creation of the UK – Overseas Territories Joint Ministerial Council on European Negotiations (JMC – OT EN), to meet in the first quarter of 2017. It was noted that Gibraltar will engage separately with the UK on EU exit issues given its different status under the European Union Treaties. The UK underlined that it will never enter arrangements under which the people of Gibraltar would pass under the sovereignty of another state against their freely and democratically expressed wishes, nor enter into a process of sovereignty negotiations with which Gibraltar is not content.
International trade and sustainable economic development
6. We reiterated our shared commitment to ensuring that the Territories reach their full potential as open, dynamic and sustainable economies, delivering growth, prosperity and employment for their citizens, without hindrance from other nations. We welcomed the recent UK-Argentina statement on the lifting of trade restrictions on the Falkland Islands. We agreed a shared ambition for a new UK-Overseas Territories economic partnership, in particular to take the priorities of the Overseas Territories into account as the UK looks to establish future trade and investment arrangements with the wider world and to explore the inclusion of Overseas Territories in future UK bilateral investment treaties.
7. We welcomed UK Government assistance available for the Overseas Territories in infrastructure development, including technical support for the development of Territories’ national economic plans and infrastructure plans. We acknowledged the importance of improved access and telecommunications for the economic development of the Territories, particularly those that are most remote, and welcomed UK support and technical expertise to engage providers and identify cost effective solutions.