Last edited: February 14, 2005

Britain to Overhaul Ties with Remaining Colonies

Reuters, February 2, 1998

By David Ljunggren

LONDON - Britain will announce this week an overhaul in relations with its remaining colonies in the wake of a major row with the volcano-ravaged island of Montserrat.

Foreign Secretary Robin Cook is to spell out the changes in a speech on Wednesday which marks the end of a six-month review into ties with the so- called dependent territories.

Officials said he would resist demands to grant full British citizenship to around 160,000 people in the 13 territories, which range from prosperous Bermuda to the tiny wind-swept island of Pitcairn.

Cook, said to have been strongly in favour of the idea, is instead set to dangle the prospect of eventual citizenship as long as the territories do more to bring themselves into line with British financial and social legislation.

People on the Falkland Islands and Gibraltar already have British passports. Similar rights do not exist for the inhabitants of territories such as Anguilla, Bermuda, the Cayman Islands, the Pitcairn Islands, the British Virgin Islands, Montserrat, St Helena and the Turks and Caicos Islands.

Several newspapers said Home Secretary Jack Straw opposed granting immediate citizenship and had pressed for more time to consider the idea.

One change which will be introduced immediately is a new name for the former colonies. They will now be known as British overseas territories, a description which is felt to be more appropriate for the 21st century.

Officials also said Cook wanted the territories to bring their financial services sectors, human rights record and anti-drugs trade into line with both British and European Union standards.

In particular, Cook wants the British Virgin Islands, the Turks and Caicos Islands, Anguilla, Montserrat and the Cayman Islands to change laws which ban homosexual acts between consenting adults.

Last month the Cayman Islands turned away a cruise ship with 900 gay men on the grounds that the passengers could not be counted "to uphold the standards of appropriate behaviour expected of visitors."

The review was triggered by an unseemly and vitriolic row with Montserrat, which accused Britain of not doing enough to help islanders deal with a series of devastating volcanic explosions.

Last month Montserrat Chief Minister David Brandt accused Britain of delaying aid in a calculated plan to drive residents from the Caribbean island.

Last year Secretary of State for International Development Clare Short accused the islanders of being greedy in their demands for aid, saying they would soon be insisting on "golden elephants."

Her comments sparked uproar and she was forced to admit later that her choice of words had been unwise.

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