What do the Party Manifestos mean the British Overseas Territories?
Although the British Overseas Territories do not have a vote in the upcoming General Election, the British political parties have addressed the Overseas Territories to different extents in their manifestos.
Unless otherwise stated, we presume that the absence of policy areas means a continuation of the status quo.
The Labour Party’s manifesto has only one mention of the Overseas Territories where it says that:
“British Overseas Territories and Crown Dependencies will be required to produce publicly available registries of the real owners of companies based there.”
We presume this means that a Labour Government will force the BOTs to produce registers of the beneficial ownership of companies incorporated in each BOT.
We note that Labour have stepped down from their incendiary tone when they initially released this policy. For instance, they have not referred to the BOTs as ‘tax havens’, nor have they talked about getting the BOTs ‘blacklisted’ by the OECD should they fail to comply. However, the initial release of this policy in Februrary left many BOT Governments concerned about the consequences of this Labour policy.
Labour have also ruled out an in-out referendum on British membership of the European Union. This means that Gibraltar would remain a member of the EU.
Labour have also committed to protecting the marine environment of the Overseas Territories.
The Conservative Party have said that:
“We will, uphold the democratic rights of the people of Gibraltar and the Falkland Islands to remain British for as long as that is their wish and to protect our Overseas Territories.” This shows that a Conservative Government will continue to support the self-determination of the British Overseas Territories, especially in the face of adversarial actions by other countries like Spain and Argentina.
“We will create a ‘Blue Belt’ around the UK’s 14 Overseas Territories, subject to local support and environmental need... (and) we will designate a further protected area around Ascension Island, subject to the views of the local community” in addition to the Government’s new Marine Protected Area around the Pitcairn Islands.
This means that a Conservative Government would continue and enhance its work to protect and develop the biodiversity of the British Overseas Territories.
The Conservatives have proposed a renegotiation of the terms of British membership of the EU and a subsequent in-out referendum. This is likely to be met with some concern in Gibraltar as it is the only BOT in the EU. Gibraltar gets many benefits in its service sector as a member of the Single Market and protection against Spanish belligerence in the EU courts. Any change in the status quo could result in changes to this protection and its position in the Single Market.
Finally, on tax avoidance, the Conservatives have said that they will continue to work with the G8 and other countries to reform the international tax rules to clamp down on tax avoidance. We presume this means that any reform of the tax rules will be done in a more collaborative manner with other countries and with the BOTs so that any such reforms can address the local concerns of the BOTs.
“In Europe, Ukip would push for commitments from our European neighbours, as well as from multi-national organisations, to guarantee the British sovereignty and territorial integrity of Gibraltar and its waters.”
“In the South Atlantic, we must not ‘negotiate’ or kowtow to Argentine aggression over the Falkland Islands but uphold and respect the islanders’ decision - through the self-determination of a recent referendum - their overwhelming desire and right to remain British.”
Ukip have staunchly reaffirmed a commitment to both the Falkland Islands’ and Gibraltar’s desire to remain British.
Ukip have also stated their desire for an in-out referendum on British membership of the EU and will negotiate terms of a new relationship with the EU if we are to leave. As stated above, Gibraltarians are likely to be wary of any such referendum due to its membership of the EU and its membership of the Single Market for services.
The Liberal Democrats have not mentioned the Overseas Territories in general or any specific BOT in their manifesto. However, they have reaffirmed their commitment to clamping down on tax avoidance by tightening the ‘anti-tax haven rules.’ This presumably means that they will work multilaterally to do this on a global level (as the Lib Dems include this area in relation to less developed nations and their debts).
The Lib Dems have also included a commitment to hold an in-out referendum the next time there is a treaty change to the EU treaties. Whether this will happen over the next five years is unsure. However, as the Lib Dems are likely to only be in government in a coalition, so it would make sense to consider this point in the context of a Conservative- or a Labour-led Government.
The Green Party
The Greens have said that:
“Because 94% of the biodiversity for which the UK is responsible is found in our Overseas Territories, ensure that conservation of the environment of the Overseas Territories, including their marine areas, is funded to a level equal to their global significance. We would also immediately extend ratification of the UN Convention on Biological Diversity to all uninhabited territories, and work with territory governments to agree a timeline for ratification of the Convention in all inhabited territories.”
This is similar to the ‘Blue Belt’ of the Conservative Party and will continue to build on the work of the current government.
The Greens have also stated their support for an in-out referendum on EU membership but have said that they believe that the EU is generally too business-focused. What this would mean in policy terms is unclear, but it may be adverse to Gibraltar’s services sector which involve a cross border element (including gaming, financial services and possibly ship registration).
There is no specific mention of the Overseas Territories in the Social Democratic & Labour Party manifesto.
Historically, the SDLP have supported Labour Governments and informally taken the Labour whip in Parliament. In the event of a Hung Parliament, it is most likely that they will support a Labour Government.
The SNP have not mentioned the Overseas Territories in their manifestos. However, they have said they will ‘clamp down on tax avoidance’ (which may or may not affect the Overseas Territories).
The SNP want the Trident nuclear deterrent to be scrapped by the UK. It has been suggested that Trident could be moved from Faslane (Scotland) to another base, perhaps Gibraltar.
The DUP have said that it ‘supports the people of the Falklands and Gibraltar. Their express desire to remain linked to the United Kingdom is admirable and must be protected and if necessary defended.’
Otherwise there is no mention of the Overseas Territories in their manifesto.