By Caribbean News Now contributor
LONDON, England – According to a May 2019 report, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) has determined that the United Kingdom (UK) government would continue to honour the fact that immigration decisions are principally a matter for Overseas Territories (OTs) governments, and that same-sex marriage is predominantly a matter for the OTs to decide.
This was part of an official response to the “Global Britain and the British Overseas Territories: Resetting the relationship” report published earlier this year from the UK’s Foreign Affairs Committee (FAC).
The report, published on Monday by the UK’s House of Commons, represents the UK government’s formal response to the FAC report and covers all the FAC’s recommendations.
Earlier this year, two recommendations in particular by the FCO ignited a firestorm of epic proportions and caused a media frenzy throughout all of the OTs.
The FCO confirmed that the UK would continue to respect the fact that immigration decisions are primarily a matter for OT governments. This was in response to the FAC recommendation that the UK Government should initiate a consultation with the OTs elected governments and work with them to decide on an agreed proposal to guarantee that there is a pathway for all resident UK and British Overseas Territory Citizens to be able to vote and hold elected office.
The UK government acknowledges why small-island territories might be reluctant to relax its Immigration and election laws to that degree. The report elaborated further that the UK understands the OTs’ sensitivities, concerns and historical background on this matter. The UK’s vision for the OTs is as vibrant and flourishing communities, with the broadest possible opportunities for their people.
The UK also expects territory governments to meet similarly high standards as the UK government in upholding the rule of law, regard for human rights and integrity in public life, providing competent public services, and building healthy and successful communities.
The FCO reiterated that same-sex marriage is primarily a matter for the Territories to decide. The FAC report had recommended that the government set a date by which it expected all OTs to have legalised same-sex marriage. However, the UK will not be setting a deadline for OTs to phase out what has been described as ‘discriminatory elements’ of their Belongership status.
The response confirmed that the UK government is committed to equal rights, including LGBT rights. It confirmed the government’s belief that the safest, strongest and most prosperous societies are those in which all citizens can live freely without fear of discrimination and where all citizens, including LGBT people, can play a full and active part in society.
The highly anticipated report further indicated that UK’s relationship with the OTs is based on partnership and consequently as a policy, laws on marriage is a matter of devolved authority which should be for the OTs to resolve and legislate on. Recent LGBT cases have demonstrated that the OTs’ justice mechanisms and processes should be permitted the space to address these matters.
The UK government, however, noted that ten of its OTs have ‘legal recognition and protection for same-sex relationships.’
An FCO representative said: “We take our responsibilities to the OTs extremely seriously. The UK government works hard to assist the OTs in building successful and resilient economies, improving standards of governance and protecting vulnerable groups; and providing support to aid protection of the environment. The UK’s commitment to these will not waiver.”