British Overseas Territories 


The British Overseas Territories (OTs) consist of 14 largely self-governing territories: Anguilla; Bermuda; the British Antarctic Territory; the British Indian Ocean Territory; the Cayman Islands; the Sovereign Base Areas of Akrotiri and Dhekelia in Cyprus; the Falkland Islands; Gibraltar; Montserrat; Pitcairn, Henderson, Ducie and Oeno Islands; St Helena, Ascension and Tristan da Cunha; South Georgia & the South Sandwich Islands; the Turks and Caicos Islands; and the British Virgin Islands. 

Varying in size and populations, the OTs range from among the world’s richest territories with closely packed populations to sparsely populated or uninhabited islands found in some of the most remote places on earth. 

Although enjoying a significant degree of local autonomy, the OTs are not sovereign states and the UK remains responsible for each of the OTs under international law. Each OT has its own constitution which sets out the powers and responsibilities of the institutions of governance. In most OTs, these include a Governor or Commissioner (appointed by The Queen), an elected legislature and a government formed of local Ministers. 

Governors or Commissioners generally have responsibility for external affairs, defence, internal security (including the police) and the appointment, discipline and removal of public officers. Most other matters are usually the responsibility of the elected OT government.

OT laws are derived from a number of sources:

  1. Reflecting OTs’ history and relationship with the United Kingdom, the United Kingdom Parliament has power to legislate for the OTs.  United Kingdom primary legislation may therefore be expressed to directly extend to an OT or OTs.
  2. United Kingdom primary legislation may also contain powers enabling an Order in Council made by HM the Queen to extend provisions of UK legislation (primary or secondary) to an OT or OTs.
  3. Most commonly, an OT’s legislature has the authority to pass its own legislation “for the peace, order and good government” of the OT.

The historical, constitutional and legal relationship between the United Kingdom and OTs, as well as the distinct laws in each jurisdiction, create unique legal issues and challenges and knowledge of both local and United Kingdom law can be vital.

Knightwood Legal’s experience of advising a number of OT governments, drafting local laws and implementing international conventions into OT legislation means that we are uniquely placed to advise on the relationship between UK and OT law and, in particular, the impact of international law on the activities of OT governments.


For further information on our work in relation to the British Overseas Territories, please contact:

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