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British Overseas Territories
The British Overseas Territories (formerly known as a dependent territories or earlier as a crown colonies) are territories that are under the sovereignty and formal control of the United Kingdom, though not part of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland.
Overseas territories should be distinguished from crown dependencies (the Channel Islands and the Isle of Man, which have a different constitutional relationship with the United Kingdom), and protectorates (which were not formally under the sovereignty of the United Kingdom).
Following the return of Hong Kong to China in 1997, the remaining British overseas possessions are mostly small island territories with small populations, the only territory of significant area being the uninhabited British Antarctic Territory. The reasons for these territories not achieving independence vary, and include:
lack of support for independence among the local population;
a small population size making the possibility of success as a sovereign state more difficult;
dependence on economic aid from the UK;
being uninhabited territories used for scientific or military purposes;
a lack of any economic or political justification for independence.
In 2002, the UK Parliament passed the British Overseas Territories Act 2002. This reclassified the UK’s dependent territories as overseas territories and, with the exception of those people solely connected with the Sovereign Base Areas of Cyprus, restored full British citizenship to their inhabitants.
The Crown dependencies are self-governing possessions of the British Crown. They are distinct from on the one hand, the overseas territories of the United Kingdom, and on the other hand – the Commonwealth Realms.
As of 2014, three jurisdictions held this status: the Bailiwicks of Jersey and Guernsey in the English Channel and the Isle of Man in the Irish Sea.
Being independently administered jurisdictions, none forms part of the United Kingdom, the Commonwealth of Nations, or the European Union.
“The Crown” is defined differently in each Crown dependency. In Jersey, statements in the 21st century of the constitutional position by the Law Officers of the Crown define it as the “Crown in right of Jersey”, with all Crown land in the Bailiwick of Jersey belonging to the Crown in right of Jersey and not to the Crown Estate of the United Kingdom.
Legislation of the Isle of Man defines the “Crown in right of the Isle of Man” as being separate from the “Crown in right of the United Kingdom”.
In Guernsey, legislation refers to the “Crown in right of the Bailiwick”, and the Law Officers of the Crown of Guernsey submitted that “The Crown in this context ordinarily means the Crown in right of the république of the Bailiwick of Guernsey” and that this comprises “the collective governmental and civic institutions, established by and under the authority of the Monarch, for the governance of these Islands, including the States of Guernsey and legislatures in the other Islands, the Royal Court and other courts, the Lieutenant Governor, Parish authorities, and the Crown acting in and through the Privy Council.” This constitutional concept is also worded as the “Crown in right of the Bailiwick of Guernsey”.
Although the Crown dependencies are British possessions of the Crown, and are not sovereign nations in their own right, the power to pass legislation affecting the islands ultimately rests with their own respective legislative assemblies, with the assent of the Crown (Privy Council, or in the case of the Isle of Man in certain circumstances the Lieutenant-Governor).
In 2005, Jersey followed the Isle of Man and Guernsey in creating the role of Chief Minister to serve as the island’s head of government.
All three Crown dependencies are members of the British–Irish Council.