The Overseas Territories are Part of the Realm

First published: 22nd April 2018 | Cmdr. Graham Edmonds RN and Cdre. Clapp RN


“The EU Security Conference seemed to be all about ‘me’ (that is a common – United States of Europe - foreign and defence policy). NATO, the cornerstone of European security since WW2 was hardly mentioned. Yet as the French are finding in Mali and the French and the UK found in Libya it is impossible to conduct any form of modern warfare without the technological, logistical, communications, electronic warfare and intelligence support of the US.

In ranking order the French have the largest EEZ. This is due to the 5 Overseas Regions, 5 Collectives and 1 Territory which are all part of France, and thus the EU, and which have political representation in the National Assembly. The UK has the 5th largest EEZ , after the US, Russia and Australia. In size our OT’s EEZs cover over 31,000 square miles. The Overseas Territories Head of State is Her Majesty the QueenHMQ; they have local government, legal system and laws and the UK (via the FCO) sets policy for the OTs covering in the main defence, security, foreign affairs, economy, good government and the environment. In short the French method is their OTs are part of France, whilst the UK offers safe peaceful self-determination and advancement iaw the wishes of the local population. The populations of the OTs (except Akrotiri and Dhekelia) hold full British Citizenship .

There cannot be any doubt, as was demonstrated in the liberation of the Falkland Islands in 1982, that the UK Government is responsible for the defence and security of the OTs and also the Crown Dependencies of the Channel Islands (the Bailiwicks of Guernsey and Jersey) and the Isle of Man. As an aside Shetland and Orkney have previously threatened, in the event of Scottish Independence from the Union, to seek Crown Dependency Status. The dependencies are not part of the EU.

The issue sidestepped continually by Government is that defence of the Realm rarely mentions the OTs and their (British ) citizens). However they are part of the Realm and the government is as responsible for their security and safety as much as it is for the citizens of Aberdeen, Abergavenny, Aldershot, and Armagh and Alderney .

It is sad reflection of the abrogation of this responsibility that in the past the government has considered negotiating away the rights of the (British) citizens of the OTs – in particular the Falklands and Gibraltar – by considering a transfer of sovereignty to another nation. In parallel successive governments have reduced the global reach of the Armed Forces, indeed the intent to withdraw the RN’s Antarctic patrol ship, HMS Endurance , provided the catalyst for Argentina to invade the Falklands. The threatened and continuing run down of the Royal Navy, and in particular the amphibious forces, underscores the Government’s complete lack of understanding of a maritime, that is non European , foreign and defence policy.

The larger OTs have ports and airfields facilities which can be used by UK based forces in emergency, the smaller ones do not. However their use cannot ever be guaranteed and fixed facilities can be put out of action easily by military, guerrilla or terrorist action – even natural disaster (eg Montserrat). In this case only amphibious resources will get the necessary force ashore to restore and support legitimate government. The OTs also have large EEZs, the resources of which are their property (eg Falklands oil) or the environment (Pitcairn Marine Reserve).

The Government in Whitehall is under-investing in the equipment needed to patrol, protect and police the UK’s direct EEZ, Territorial Seas and Borders (post Brexit), let alone those of the OTs. Nine P8s and five OPVs just do not cut the mustard. The French Navy and Coastguard, for example, deploy twenty-four OPVs, twenty-two Atlantique MPA and thirteen Falcons 50 & 200 (Guardian) for Maritime Surveillance across their overseas territories.

With regard to amphibious forces the French Navy deploys three LPH and works with the Troupe de Marine (10,000 personnel), who are part of the French Army. The Troupe de Marine are usually the first French armed force to be deployed overseas. The Royal Navy has been obliged to sell sold its only LPH and the Government is still considering selling the two specialist LPDs and reducing the strength of the Royal Marines by 2,000.

On balance of investment who takes protection of the British Realm, which includes the OTs , or French Republique more seriously at a time of considerable unease?” Russian, Chinaese and other countries all seem to be interested in gaining sea territory and maritime trade influence. Our diminishing defences offer no deterrence, nor even dissuasion.


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