How does UK impose direct rule on a British Overseas Territory?

| 12/06/2019

Under what circumstances would the British Government impose direct rule over one of its overseas territories?

Ask Auntie, CNS Local Life, Caymanian status

Auntie’s answer: I can answer the query in general terms and also offer an example of direct rule being imposed. The process of implementing direct rule is fairly straightforward, though the pathway to reach that point is more involved. The UK can suspend a territory’s constitution along with the authority of its government and legislature. This is done by introducing a draft order to be voted on by the UK Parliament. If the legislators pass the order, then Britain can implement direct rule, with power transferred to the UK-appointed governor of the territory.

Clearly, the situation must be serious enough to warrant such a drastic move. This is what occurred in the Turks and Caicos Islands in August 2009, when then-Premier Michael Misick and members of his cabinet and assembly faced allegations of systematic corruption. Direct rule was implemented following an inquiry ordered by the Foreign Office, which found there was a “high probability” that the accusations were true, and after the UK had been threatening that action for several months. Home rule was restored to TCI in November 2012.

But even if there may be valid reasons for the UK to take control, that does not mean the move will be welcomed. In the case of TCI, implementing direct rule was very unpopular in the UK for which there were no obvious benefits. And for TCI, the moved caused local resentment, despite whatever corruption Misick may have been guilty of, and evoked unflattering parallels to Britain’s colonial past.

Overall, the experience of imposing direct rule in TCI was not a happy one, so although Britain can, in theory, repeat this with any of its territories, I feel confident that it would do so very reluctantly and only after trying every other possible option first.

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Comments (3)

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  1. Anonymous says:

    UK direct rule only make things worse for the Natives and made matters worse between U K and T &C

  2. Anonymous says:

    During U K direct rule, TCI people said they was a lot worse off

  3. Anonymous says:

    “caused local resentment, despite whatever corruption Misick may have been guilty of…. this is to be expected.. Best defense is offense.

    P.S. good question and answer