Dawn of a new decade: What is in store for our Overseas Territories?

With the New Year bringing new opportunities, 2020 will also be a year which will usher in elections, referendums and the UK’s own departure from the European Union.


Sarah Cooper-Lesadd

1/18/20203 min read

With 2019 gone and as the new decade dawns, January is time of reflection and for many, a fresh start. With the New Year bringing new opportunities, 2020 will also be a year which will usher in elections, referendums and the UK’s own departure from the European Union. While there are certain events and dates we should all watch out for, there will undoubtedly be some surprises along the way. As our Overseas Territories prepare for the decade ahead, we look at the main events/dates which will likely shape the direction ahead.

Gibraltar: Gexit

With Brexit remaining an indefinite uncertainty in 2019, in 2020 we will definitely leave the EU. Gibraltar’s departure will likely have an impact on the status of approximately 10,000 Spaniards who work in Gibraltar as well as affecting the flow of goods such tax, tobacco and medicine.

With Britain imminently leaving the European Union, Spain is embarking on a special task: negotiating Gibraltar’s own exit from the European club.

Spain, UK & Gibraltar will meet at the Madrid Summit in January to discuss what is becoming known as Gexit. The goal will deal with any tensions and misunderstandings that might arise during Britain’s departure and ahead of the transition period extending to December 31st, 2020.

Technical delegations from both countries are due to meet in Madrid on January 14 and 15, with the summit predicted to be mid January.

Falkland Islands: Electoral reform on the cards

March 2020 is set to be the third time in 18 years that the Falkland Islands will have been asked to vote on creating a single constituency for the whole of the islands. Elections in the Falkland Islands are held every four years to elect eight members to the Legislative Assembly using multiple non-transferable vote. In theory, this works however in practice the Camp constituency is heavily over represented, electing three out of the eight seats with the remaining five seats being elected from the Stanley constituency. 87% of the islands’ population live in Stanley, compared to 13% in Camp.

However, there are doubts whether the referendum will actually pass with the last referendum rejected. The 2011 referendum was rejected with a narrow majority of voters in Stanley voting in favour but over 80% in Camp voted against.

The Falkland Islands is split into two areas using multiple non-transferable votes with the Camp. The election will ask residents to consider:

“Should there be two constituencies, Stanley and Camp, or should there be one constituency for the whole of the Falkland Islands?”

Anguilla: A tough electoral contest ahead

Elections in Anguilla are due early April but no date has yet been announced. The country is preparing for a tough fight ahead with opposition forces recently uniting to form the Anguilla Progressive Movement led by medical doctor Elis Webster. As the election dawns, there will be a tough fight ahead for the incumbent Anguilla National Front who last time, won with a majority share.

Cayman Islands/BVI: Public ownership registers stay on the horizon

In May last year a cross party group of campaigning MPs forced an amendment to the UK’s Sanctions and Anti-Money Laundering Bill 2018, requiring the government to enforce public registers on 14 OTs by the end of 2020. This remains particularly problematic for OTs with significant financial sectors especially the Cayman Islands and British Virgin Islands, whose governments have described the move as undemocratic and a breach of the previous agreements.

For now, the Cayman Islands and BVI can sleep peacefully as the end of 2020 is still a ways off, and with instant compliance remaining the hope, rather than the expectation. However, more legal challenges are on the way, with BVI and Cayman governments announcing their intention to bring forth independent legal challenges in the British courts and there is still a long fight ahead. With public ownership registers remaining ineffectual for now, this will only last until 2023 at the very latest.

A concerning prospect for all: Government to set out its vision for future OT funding

To feed into Spending Review considerations, the Government is establishing an Inter Ministerial Group to examine the issue of whether to develop a dedicated OT fund, including ODA assistance together with reviewing replacements for the Blue Belt programme. With the current programme ending in March 2020, the Government announced in the Spring statement 2019 that it will support the calls from Ascension Island Council for a fully protected, no take Marine Protected Area in its offshore waters.

As Boris Johnson reviews his vision for the country, a full multi-year spending review will likely follow in 2020 which will consider funding for our Overseas Territories. With the Prime Minister looking to funnel investment towards deprived regions outside London, this spending review is one to watch out for.