British Overseas Territories

The Union Jack flying over the Falkland Islands

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).

They should also not be confused with Commonwealth realms, which are independent states sharing the same sovereign as the United Kingdom.
At one time, most crown colonies were directly administered by officials appointed by the British government.
Today, however most overseas territories are self-governing, only relying on Britain for defence, foreign affairs, and some trade issues.

Overseas territories have never been considered integral parts of the United Kingdom, and have never had representation in the British Parliament, on the grounds that they are separate jurisdictions.This is in contrast to other European countries, such as France, Denmark, and the Netherlands, whose dependencies have varying degrees of integration with their so-called ‘mother countries’.
Only in Malta was integration ever seriously considered by the British Government, in 1955, though this was later abandoned, while in Gibraltar it was rejected in 1976.

Their continued relationship with Britain is, based on the democratic principle of self determination, they have chosen to remain British. Citizens of all the British Overseas Territories have the right of abode in the United Kingdom.
The growth of the British Empire in the 19th century, to its peak in the 1920s, saw the UK acquire over one quarter of the world’s land mass, including territories with large indigenous populations in Asia and Africa, which were held for commercial and strategic reasons rather than for settlement[citation needed]. The late 19th century saw the larger settler colonies — in Canada, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa — becoming self-governing colonies and achieving independence in all matters except foreign policy, defence and trade. Separate self-governing colonies federated to become Canada (in 1867) and Australia (in 1901). These and other large self-governing colonies had become known as Dominions by the 1920s.


The Dominions achieved almost full independence with the Statute of Westminster (1931). The Empire was renamed the British Commonwealth to reflect such changes and in 1949 became known as the Commonwealth of Nations. Most of the British colonies in Africa, Asia and the Caribbean achieved independence. Some colonies became Commonwealth Realms, retaining the British monarch as head of state, others became republics but acknowledged Queen Elizabeth II as Head of the Commonwealth.

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.

Where are the Overseas Territories?












UK Overseas Territories Conservation Forum
The UK Overseas Territories Conservation Forum exists to promote the co-ordinated conservation of the diverse and increasingly threatened plant and animal species and natural habitats of UK’s Overseas Territories (UKOTs) and Crown Dependencies. It aims to do this by providing assistance in the form of expertise, information and liaison between non- governmental organisations and governments, both in the UK and in the Territories themselves.

Founded in 1987, the Forum has gained worldwide support and recognition as being the best source of information and expertise on conservation in UK’s Overseas Territories by both Governmental and non-governmental organisations.

Forum Priorities:
To raise public awareness about the wealth of biodiversity in UKOTs, and potential threats
To facilitate the implementation of international conservation conventions
To promote compilations of existing data, surveys of biodiversity and ecological studies, to inform plans for sustainable use and conservation
To assist the development of biodiversity targets and action plans to achieve these for each UKOT
To network information amongst UK and its Overseas Territories conservation groups, governments, educators and environmentalists
To support conservation groups in the UKOTs, and to publicise conservation activities and successes
To facilitate design and management of projects
To seek funding for projects in the UKOTs and for Forum activities
To find out more about conservation in the Overseas Territories, see

UK Overseas Territories Association – UKOTA
UKOTA exists to promote the interests of the United Kingdom Overseas Territories and co-operation between them. Specifically UKOTA demonstrates the collective and individual partnerships between the territories and Her Majesty’s Government. 

To find out more about the UK Overseas Territories Association, see