Last updated 3/6/2017 16:16

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UK General Election 2017: Where does each party stand with the Overseas Territories?

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By Ben Brickley

We are now only a few days away from the General Election and all political parties will be hoping to build momentum as they trade campaign announcements and events. There will be many key issues that all party leaders will discuss Brexit being one of the most major debates in the last few months. However, there is one important issue and that is the United Kingdom’s relationship with its Overseas Territories which is subsequently linked to Brexit as well. 


Many Overseas Territories will be keeping a close watch on the general election proceedings as Brexit looms. Gibraltar in particular will be keeping a keen eye on the outcomeand the Government of Gibraltar have already called on Britain’s political parties to make “clear and explicit commitments” to Gibraltar in their manifestos for the general election. Chief Minister Fabian Picardo said his government would pursue assurances on Gibraltar’s post-Brexit future from all parties contesting the UK election. “We’ll asking political parties in the UK to feature clear and explicit commitments to Gibraltar in their manifestos, both in terms of our ability to continue to trade on single-market terms with the UK after Brexit, and the inclusion of Gibraltar in the UK’s new international trade deals going forward, including the ones with the EU,” Mr Picardo said. Even though Gibraltar will not be going to the polls it is an Overseas Territory that has strong cross-party support, so whatever the outcome, Westminster has assured the Rock it will back it unequivocally. The UK’s relationship with its Overseas Territories should be a key issue during the general election due to the make or break nature of the current Gibraltar/Spain vetoing powers so it is crucial to know where all party leaders stand in regards to the country’s relationship with the Overseas territories  - here's what we know so far on where the main party leaders across the UK stand.

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Jeremy Corbyn-The Labour Party


Lifelong anti-imperialist and current leader of the Labour party Jeremy Corbyn has previously called for direct rule to be imposed on former British colonies. Asked whether he thinks the Cayman Islands – which was governed as part of the Colony of Jamaica until 1962 when they became a separate Crown colony – should face direct rule in order to tackle tax havens, Corbyn said “I don’t have a problem with that. They’re British Crown dependent territories therefore surely there has to be an observance of UK tax law.”

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The Labour leader was previously accused of wanting to hand over the Falkland Islands to Argentina after outgoing Argentinian ambassador Alicia Castro stated that Corbyn was "one of ours", and additional that he wanted a Northern Ireland-style arrangement in which Britain and Argentina would govern the islands together. However, in the Labour Party manifesto they have pledged to defend the Falklands despite previous comments made by Jeremy Corbyn. Shadow Foreign Secretary Emily Thornberry said that “Britain’s overseas territories are a fundamental part of our national history and Labour will always stand up for the rights, interests and self-determination of their citizens, whether that means protecting the sovereignty of the Falkland Islands against anyone who would seek to challenge it, or supporting the right of the Chagos Islanders to return to their homelands in Diego Garcia."

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Theresa May-The Conservative Party


The current Prime Minister of the United Kingdom and leader of the Conservative Party Theresa May has shown great resolve when it comes to the relationship with the Overseas. During the current decision by the EU to allow Spain vetoing powers over Brexit matter pertaining to Gibraltar she stated that “My position on Gibraltar has not changed. We are very clear that we support Gibraltar, we’re working with the Government of Gibraltar and will continue to do so because we want to negotiate the best possible deal for the UK and the best possible deal for Gibraltar.”

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Although she has previously been criticised for not having a strong plan after there were accusations made that Bermuda had been used for some of the most secretive tax havens in the world, facilitating tax dodging and corruption in the United Kingdom's own back yard. It is clear however that Theresa May is including the Overseas Territories in Brexit Negotiations after a new forum was created dedicated to discussing possible implications of Brexit on the Overseas Territories. Her dedication to the protection of the Overseas Territories was backed up during the launch of the Conservative Part manifesto when she stated that “we will protect the democratic freedom of the people of Gibraltar and our overseas territories to remain British, for as long as that is their wish."

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Tim Farron-The Liberal Democrats


Pro-Remainer and currentleader of the Liberal Democrats Tim Farron has previously stated that “Gibraltar and other overseas territories should be given a seat in the Commons so that Britons living abroad get a voice in the Brexit negotiations.” This was due to Gibraltar voting unanimously to remain within the EU during the referendum vote. 

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Tim Farron has also consulted the Government and the Boundary Commission on a plan to create new constituencies for British people who live abroad he stated that this was because “the Brexit vote will affect many British people who live and work abroad as well as places like Gibraltar.” Mr Farron is opposing Brexit at any cost as he believes that jumping out of the Single Market will have negative consequences for the Overseas Territories in regards to jobs and the economy. The Liberal Democrats under Tim Farron have stated in their manifesto for the general election that “the UK must be able to defend itself and the territories for which it has responsibility” further backing up their support for the Overseas Territories if they were to gain an overall majority in parliament.

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Paul Nuttall-UKIP


The current leader of the United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP) Paul Nuttall has previously expressed the need for Gibraltar to be given its own Member of Parliament so that the UK can send a clear message to Spain that Gibraltar shall remain a British Territory. The UKIP leader called the European Union's decision to give Spain the right to veto a Brexit deal over Gibraltar as “most offensive”. 

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He said Gibraltarians made it clear they want to remain British when they voted against shared sovereignty during the 2002 referendum. Speaking during an EU Brexit debate in Strasbourg, he said “The most offensive position you have taken is the proposal that Spain will have the right to veto any Brexit deal over the issue of Gibraltar and the People of Gibraltar are proudly British.” He said his idea to declare Gibraltar as part of Britain would prevent the area, famed for its famous rock overlooking the gateway to the Mediterranean Sea, from being used as a pawn in the Brexit negotiations with the European Union.

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