The fourteen British Overseas Territories are territories under the jurisdiction of the United Kingdom (Britain). They do not, however, form part of it. Instead, they are those parts of the former British Empire that have not acquired independence, or, unlike the Commonwealth realms, have voted to remain British territories. While each has its own internal leadership, most being self-governing, they share the British monarch (Queen Elizabeth II) as head of state.
The name "British Overseas Territory" was introduced by the British Overseas Territories Act 2002, replacing the name British Dependent Territory introduced by the British Nationality Act 1981. Before 1981, the territories were known as Crown colonies. With the exceptions of the British Antarctic Territory and South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands (which host only officials and research station staff) and the British Indian Ocean Territory (used as a military base), the Territories retain permanent civilian populations. Permanent residency for the 7,000 or so civilians living in the Sovereign Base Areas of Akrotiri and Dhekelia is limited to citizens of the Republic of Cyprus.
Collectively, the Territories encompass a population of approximately 260,000 people and a land area of approximately 667,018 square miles (1,727,570 km2). The vast majority of this, 660,000 square miles (1,700,000 km2), constitutes the British Antarctic Territory. Britain participates in the Antarctic Treaty System and, as part of a mutual agreement, the British Antarctic Territory is recognised by four of the other sovereign nations making claims to Antarctic territory.
Although the Crown Dependencies of Jersey, Guernsey and the Isle of Man are also under the sovereignty of the British Crown, they are in a different constitutional relationship with the United Kingdom. The British Overseas Territories and Crown Dependencies are themselves distinct from the Commonwealth of Nations, a voluntary association of 54 countries mostly with historic links to the British Empire.
The current minister responsible for the Territories is Mark Simmonds MP. Gibraltar and the Sovereign Base Areas, however, are the responsibility of the Minister for Europe David Lidington MP, while the Falkland Islands are the responsibility of Hugo Swire MP.
Read more about British Dependencies: Current Overseas Territories, History, Relations With The United Kingdom, Foreign Affairs, Currencies, Citizenship, Military, Symbols and Insignia, Sporting, Biodiversity
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