THE BLOG

The United Kingdom Should Declare Its Own Independence From The Overseas Territories

07/03/2016 11:33 GMT | Updated 07/03/2017 10:12 GMT

Gibraltar wants to remain in the European Union even if the United Kingdom voted to leave. Gibraltar can please itself. Nowhere is compelled to be a British Overseas Territory.

If Gibraltar wanted to become independent and apply for EU membership, then no one could stop it from doing so. Spain would veto that application itself. But that is a whole other matter.

Tony Blair wanted to give Gibraltar to Spain in order to ease what was always his own fanciful progress to the Presidency of the EU. In May 1940, Churchill had been all ready to give Gibraltar, among several other places, to Mussolini.

The territories that the so-called "Greatest Briton" had been prepared to cede to the man whom he had called "the greatest living legislator" had also included the ones inhabited by the white settlers in Kenya and Uganda.

Fascist rule might have suited the Happy Valley set down to the ground. But whether or not it would have done so was of no interest to Churchill. Not very long afterwards, Britain did simply walk out on them. Under a Conservative Government, of course.

The "kith and kin" populations that Britain has at some point just upped and left behind, almost (if almost) always after having very recently fought wars in order to hold onto them, are collectively larger than the No vote in the Scottish independence referendum.

Those populations are much larger than the Unionist vote in Northern Ireland, and enormously larger than the population of the Falkland Islands, which pretends for British television that it is all-white when it no longer is.

It is common for a colonial possession to be far larger and more populous than its colonial possessor. Such is now the relationship between the United Kingdom and the Falkland Islands. They are the colonial power, and we are the colony.

The question is how long we are prepared to put up with that, before we exercise our right of self-determination and assert our independence from somewhere that has never been part of the United Kingdom, any more than The Gambia has ever been part of the United Kingdom.

Great swaths of the earth fought for Britain in the two World Wars, and a huge proportion of the global population is anything up to nine generations removed from these Islands.

What the Falkland Islanders currently have is not self-determination. It is other-determination. The rest of us have to expend our blood, potentially, and our treasure, very much more than potentially, merely because they say so.

Thus, we have the most expensive empire in history. The cost of defending one of the British Overseas Territories, the only one that needs it and the tenth most populous of the 11 that have permanent populations, is greater than would be the cost of declaring them all independent, including the restored Chagossians, each with a permanent annual grant of one billion pounds.

Why not do that? There would be no need to ask them. Like teenagers, they would get to be consulted when they started putting money in the pot.

St Helena, where I was born and from which the whole of my mother's family originates, would have had its airport, and a great deal more besides, a very long time ago under that arrangement.

Although, having spent most of my life in County Durham, I quite understand that well over £200 million, for the benefit of quite so few people, sat ill alongside the communities that had gone to the wall for the want of far less pubic investment.

Further south, if a billion a year did not include enough to provide for the defence of 4,700 square miles, then the 2,932 inhabitants of those square miles would not deserve to be defended.

This would also free us of the national shames that are the Cayman Islands, Bermuda, the Turks and Caicos Islands, and the British Virgin Islands. The first two have currencies pegged to the US dollar, which itself circulates freely in Bermuda. The US dollar is the only legal tender in the second two.

St Helena is neither a tax haven, nor does it cost anything to defend. Yet nor have its people enjoyed full British citizenship continuously. Although they do hold it again now; Blair did at least reverse that aspect of Thatcherism.

We left India a mere two years, to the day, after VJ Day. That had nothing to do with whether or not the people there wanted us. It was because we could no longer afford both an empire abroad, and the progressive measures for which our people were crying out at home.

We left people behind in India, and almost everywhere else that we left for the same reason. That never bothered us for one second.

There is no question of forcing places or their inhabitants into Spain or Argentina. But there is absolutely no obligation on Britain to keep them merely because they wish to be kept. That obligation simply does not exist.

If Gibraltar did not want to be part of Spain, or the Falkland Islands did not want to be part of Argentina, then it would be Gibraltar's responsibility to keep itself out of Spain, or the Falkland Islands' responsibility to keep themselves out of Argentina.

No one in the United Kingdom had a vote in the referendum in Gibraltar in 2002, or in the referendum in the Falkland Islands in 2013.

Yet that latter, at least, was deemed to keep the taxpayers of the United Kingdom under an enormous obligation, up to and including the loss of life if necessary. On the votes of 1,513 people.

But even the 1,517 people who voted are not the only people with rights, although they alone enjoy their rights without the concomitant responsibilities.

Instead, declare all of the British Overseas Territories independent, including the restored Chagossians, each with a permanent annual grant of one billion pounds. Or, rather, declare the United Kingdom independent of them.

Exercise our right to self-determination.