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Britain is responsible for the defence, security and diplomatic relations of five territories in the Caribbean. These territories are the Cayman Islands, British Virgin Islands, Anguilla, Montserrat and Turks and Caicos Islands.

The British Overseas Territories located in the Caribbean, once widely known as British West Indies, represented back in the heyday of the Empire just small additions of red marks in the imperial map. In the early twentieth century, Britain was responsible for the administration, defence and foreign relations of more than 15 territories just in the Caribbean and so it was for more than a hundred years.

The winds of change arrived in the region in the late 1950s with the creation in 1958 of the West Indies Federation, which did not include mainland possessions such as British Guiana and British Honduras. The Federation was a move towards the creation of a political unit that eventually would become independent from the UK as a single state, similar to the political arrangements of the Australian Commonwealth or Canadian Federation.

Nevertheless, due to lack of widespread support, internal disagreements and political divergences over how the new political union would function the West Indies Federation collapsed in 1962.

After the dissolution of the Federation,  in 1962, Jamaica and Trinidad and Tobago become independent, followed by British Guiana, technically located in South America but with close links with the Caribbean, in 1966. Only in 1973 that the question of independence would gain momentum again. The decolonisation process accelerated in the Caribbean, and within ten years most of the British colonies achieved independence. In 1983 five territories were remaining under British responsibility: The Cayman Islands, Turks and Caicos Islands, British Virgin Islands, Montserrat and Anguilla.

Long before 1983, the territories in the region witnessed the gradual reduction of the British military presence. The Royal Navy used to have a permanent presence in the area; it usually was a frigate and an RFA ship. The effect of the defence cuts is that only a Royal Fleet Auxiliary ship is sent to the Caribbean – loaded with Royal Marines, engineers and humanitarian aid – only in the hurricane season between May and November.

RFA Mounts Bay was the vessel present there at the beginning of the 2017 hurricane season. However, the Royal Navy and the RFA continue to pay regular visits to the territories.

Alongside Britain, France and the Netherlands have possessions under their responsibilities. But both France and the Netherlands have relatively large numbers of military personnel permanently based in the Caribbean. France has more 1,000 troops in the region plus 2,000 in the nearby French Guyana. The French also have a naval base in Martinique and two frigates supported by helicopters. The Netherlands also have troops in the region accompanied by two vessels.

The lack of permanent British forces in the area is a source of growing criticism, especially when the British Territories need aid from Britain to recover from hurricanes and other natural disasters. The critics argue that a permanent base in the Caribbean would reassure the British dependencies of Britain’s ongoing commitments with them and hasten the response in time of crises. Nonetheless, some of the territories have their local-raised forces.

With a population of only 5,000, Montserrat is one that maintains its military unit, known as the Royal Montserrat Defence Force and also have a cadet corps for secondary school students. Anguilla has its marine police force with around 32 personnel with one M160-class fast patrol boat. Since 2009, the British Virgin Islands has an Army Cadet Corps, a youth organisation with links to the Royal Virgin Islands Police Force. The Cayman Islands, created in 2001 the Cayman Islands Cadet Corps that performs military-type training with teenage citizens. The government of the islands expressed its intention to raise a Cayman Islands Defence Force, which would put the islands as the fifth British Overseas Territories to have a locally raised defence force.

It is worth to mention that the total population of these overseas territories in the Caribbean is approximately 140,000. Their land area is also reduced, the five dependencies cover just over 1,030 km² or 400 square miles. They are largely self-governing and possess their own constitutions and regional governments. Despite that, its inhabitants are British citizens, meaning the Queen is their head of state and, as already said, that the UK is entirely responsible for their security, defence and foreign relations.

So, five of the fourteen British Overseas Territories are located in the Caribbean. These territories provide to Britain a continued presence in the region for centuries and once were an essential pillar of the British naval power in the Atlantic Ocean. So, these dependencies, despite their lack of significant land mass and human resources, contributed to building Britain’s preponderance in the Atlantic since they were first established in the seventeenth century.

Therefore, it is important that Britain is ready to stand for its territories when a crisis arises and the lives of British citizens are endangered by natural disasters or by others nations interests.

The UK has a duty with every territory that wishes to remain British and despite budgetary restraints, the British Armed Forces show their qualities and commitment when deployed to the region, aiding thousands of British citizens to recover from natural disasters and carry on.

37 COMMENTS

  1. As ever ukdj has its finger on the pulse of latest UK defence news.

    Big defence cuts in the short term to address poor procurement decisions which hang like a millstone round the neck of the current armed forces.

    Huge problems, such as recruitment and retention of personnel, simply not being addressed.

    Come on boys and girls let’s have a proper discussion on the future of our armed forces. Time to stop playing fantasy war games and deal with the world as it is.

    • Mind-blowing crassness par excellence, is the only way to describe the rumours coming from the BBC. The sale of both Albion and Bulwark, which would deny the Royal Marines a keystone of their naval operations is as stupid as it sounds. One option would be to place both in immediate reserve, thus ensuring their use in a crisis. I firmly believe in reserve assets, which allows for considerable saving for the day to day running costs, but ensures the availability of a vital component when required. Storage technology has developed in leaps and bounds over recent years, and could be used with effect on these two vessels in question.

      • Think it’s gone beyond that now, if we are to balance the books then deep cuts have to be made to armed forces.

        My preferred option is to a radical overhaul of our armed forces, a credible defence and security strategy and an increase in defence expediture.

        Trouble is we only have two political options a Tory or Corbyn led government. Neither of those two options offer a way out of the mess in fact the latter will make it much worse.

        • Now is not the time to tear up the current organization. In recent years too many defense reviews have done nothing but compound the problems of stability. The most appropriate time to make significant changes will be once we have left the EU, and for the UK government to assess where defense assets are best served.
          All assets taken out of service should be retained in readiness, this to my mind is one realistic solution to short-term finance shortfalls?

          • I don’t think we have the time or money for that option.

            To my mind we have been kicking the can along the road since 2003, we have made some terrible defence procurement decisions based on political game by the various governments and senior military figures.

            I think the RN decided they must have the two CVFs at any cost, now the bill has to be paid and people don’t like it.

      • Let’s hope that it’s just the press getting it wrong again. Is it just me or are they getting increasingly vociferous when it comes to defence even if most of what they say is rumour and speculation? The Times, once a trustworthy paper, is becoming a real pain in the a… and as for some of the others!

    • i think its important that those leaving are asked what it is that you have decided to leave for, when i left the navy, nobody said’ why are you going? are you sure you want to do it?i got the impression nobody gave a stuff.

  2. I have never really understood why we do not have a permanent force in the region and why it is that we deploy everything from frigates to oilers when both extremes are questionable for the role they are likely to play.
    Two of the new River class with helicopter support could be permanently based in the islands with crews rotating and supplemented by local recruitment from the cadet forces.
    Similarly we can surely make an educated assessment of what material is likely to be required post hurricane and have it securely stored and ready.
    Overall this action would show the U K as a caring protector and strengthen existing bonds. Theresa May said that she was disappointed with there attitude to aid. What better way to respond.

  3. Apparently the Tories are the party to be trusted with defence – well maybe they should start earning that status rather than purely spouting it. How can Fallon talk about the much vaunted equipment plan or ‘The year of the Royal Navy’ and keep a straight face?

    Yes we are getting some nice new kit, most of which is a straight replacement for old assets. Carrier strike capability is all very well but not at the expense of everything else.

    Time to prove they are the defence party and increase the MOD budget to keep all current capabilities and build on it.

    • I am hoping that Michael Fallons comment about an increase in the budget becomes a reality. It is very unusual for a senior politician to make that sort of statement without having party support and in particular the support of the prime minister. Fingers crossed!!

    • i’d forward your post to to your local M.Pa sking him/her to forward it to the M.O.D.you will get a reply(eventually).i’ve done this many times. although the reply is usually a rehash of the soundbites we hear all the time, new carriers,steel cut on first t26 f 35 giving the nation a new cutting edge e.t.c.they never say it might happen one day, but we have to wait for hank the yank’ to pull his fingers out and our planes built. or, jock och’ were’s mae socket gun gone tae

    • he probably will be and we’ll all be comisars for the peoples marxist british navy.and start buying old 2nd hand russian warships held together with duct tape.

  4. Now is not the time to tear up the current organization. In recent years too many defense reviews have done nothing but compound the problems of stability. The most appropriate time to make significant changes will be once we have left the EU, and for the UK government to assess where defense assets are best served.
    All assets taken out of service should be retained in readiness, this to my mind is one realistic solution to short-term finance shortfalls?

  5. If as they say we are the 5/6th biggest economy in the world how come we cant afford theses things?
    We are slowly but surly seeing the decline of our nation from a strong first rate nation to a second class nation in my lifetime
    What are the cash drainers of this country
    I have my own thoughts but wont raise them as i will be shouted down
    Be good to hear some of your thoughts as you might be a bit braver thanme and dont mind being called things lol

    • People only need to look at the pie chart of where the Government’s budget goes to see for themselves. Our budget deficit is something like £50bn a year but we spend £40bn on interest servicing our debt. This has increased significantly since the financial crisis. Add to that unsustainable welfare, pension, and health costs and you end up cutting everything to the bone trying to bring the budget back into balance. Just imagine what cuts there would need to be to achieve £50bn of savings!

      Defence is an easy target as the majority will always see the NHS, education, pensions, and welfare as the priority.

      Increasing tax rates would be OK in my book but we keep being told that this doesn’t make economic sense as it stunts growth. So we just keep going round and round.

      • Two thirds go on pensions, welfare and social services. Things the majority of middle aged tax payers do not actually benefit from.
        As much as pensioners argue they paid taxes when in work the pensions they will receive over their longer than expected life time will be significantly larger than what they contributed especially those in the public sector.
        In terms of unemployment benefits I don’t think our outgoings are too bad there will always be those that play the system but tightening it any further won’t achieve much in savings other than looking like the government in targeting the poor and vulnerable.
        I do think the richest avoid a hell of lot of their tax burden compared to the middle class, I’m easily loosing 50% of my earnings to income tax, nat ins, council tax, VAT and fuel duty, I doubt those earning over £500k even pay 20% in tax

        • The majority of people would like a balanced and fair tax system but by increasing the rates for high earners do you actually end up with a higher overall tax take or do they just find ways of avoiding it? Also it tends to act as a disincentive to entrepreneurs who are the lifeblood of the economy, after all most of the tax take is from income tax and NIC so we need employers.

          Hard one as by giving incentives to entrepreneurs you are lowering their overall tax rates, thereby feeding the feeling of injustice to those lower paid, but who are employed.

          • When we had a 98% top tax rate in the 1970s, the richest 1% paid 7% of all tax money.

            Now we have a 45% top tax rate, the richest 1% pay 30%.

            It is clear that the more you hike up the tax, the more it is avoided. Remember the 1970s “brain drain”, and Roger Moore moving to Monaco?

            Taxing the rich is an illusion. The savings must come from our aid bill (£15bn p/a) and our EU budget (which is another type of foreign aid anyway) at £10bn p/a. That and stopping migrants claiming tax credits (£4bn p/a). Then we can chase the likes of Google, Amazon etc for tax – which they currently use the EU to avoid. Paying down our debt is also essential – the interest payments are huge.

  6. Don’t blame the newspapers, they are being fed “information” from senior figures within the MOD. No doubt those people are trying to protect their own positions/areas from the cuts by trying to create public outrage.

    The cost of new and existing equipment is rising much faster than expected, due to the devaluation of sterling caused by brexit. I would suggest the election of a Corbyn government would see a further dramatic fall in sterling making the situation worse. The budget is fixed, so you buy less equipment or cut existing capabilities.

    For those who do not believe big defence cuts are coming then you have no understanding of the current position we find ourselves in.

  7. The foreign aid budget should be dramatically reduced and handed to the armed forces to fund ships like Albion bulwark and an aircraft carrier as it always seems to be these ships and the armed forces that get called on for these situations !

  8. I agree with Mike on this – The USMC get by on $26bn p.a. and have a larger, better resourced force than the Whole UK force combined, allied for the need to have a proper Cyber force the UKAF need a radical overall.

    I suggest a single force structure as per the IDF /USMC/ADF of around 250k personnel split into 7 Divisions. 2 Divisions with expeditionary forces (built around the Carriers and RN) and 4 Combat Divisions built around the Army (2 Light /2 Armour) and a large HQ Division with all the core functions and logistics under a single command structure.

    Each Division will have a dedicated quota of Land, Air, Naval, Cyber, Communications, CnC, Intelligence assets and will be built around 4 combat brigades of 3288 front line soldiers each (13k per div) with a further 19k personnel providing all other functions.

    If we go with this then we can fund a USMC style force for circa £25bn p.a. leaving circa £15bn p.a. for Successor and the core MOD functions (HQ Div in this example).

    Roughly speaking the budget will be as follows:

    Personnel and Welfare = £15bn pa.
    New Equipment = £8bn pa.
    Equipment Support and Maintenance = £8bn pa.
    Operations = £7bn pa.
    R&D = £2bn pa.

    Alternatively you could give each of the 6 Combat Divisions a £5bn pa annual budget and HQ £10bn and have them manage their own budgets within a framework.

    The one thing I am sure on the UK does not need such a fragmented Armed forces structure anymore, it is just too small and inefficient.

    • No.
      The USMC is very well managed in how it is resourced and funded. However it reaches the approximately $30b per yer depending on procurement is misleading. As always the devil is in the details.
      1. A large amount of the equipment it possesses is bought in block buys with the larger better funded services reducing procurement and maintenance costs.
      2. Never throwing anything away the USMC will keep equipment until it outright falls apart then strip it for parts. Costs are further brought down by often not paying for gear at all and taking stuff other services even the National Guard has thrown away.
      3. High tier training is often shared or outright farmed out to other services. Examples are like jet pilot training is done by the Navy, major portions of MARSOC (Raider Regiment) has to be done by the Army like advanced jump school (HALO) requires Army and AF cooperation to train.
      4. Highly predatory personnel practices. Once you hit about 30-35yrs old and you aren’t in a high demand MOS haven’t made Master Sergeant if enlisted or Captain (Major if Congress was stingy that year). You will start hearing constantly the virtues of going Reserve or better yet. “Think about changing service branches son it will be good you. As a matter of fact I insist.” Anything to get the Corps of the hook to pay the retirement plan.

      • Hi Elliot

        I was unaware of these practices – however and it is a big however $26bn equates to about £20bn or 50% of the UK’s defence budget. Surely we can correct those elements you have identified within the other 50% of the budget.

        I have cost this up and it can be done in the UK, but it requires a real shift in attitude and a realisation that things have to change.

        From my perspective the UK is spending too much money on support and infrastructure and not enough on front line capability.

        I think we can do better than the USMC and my point is that I think the budget is OK and that the MOD has been abysmal in its management. Having said that the USMC and IDF for that matter do offer amazing value for money. Does the MOD?

        • True I agree with most of what you said the MOD wastes huge amounts of money on support costs. For instance a grossly inflated officer corps. In the US there are laws prohibiting promotion and even retention to just sit without a command for to long.
          Some very basic reforms the Government could enact in the UK would include:
          1. Get rid of the ridiculous requirement that if emergency equipment is purchased by the Treasury that the military has to pay for it later to keep it.
          2. Increase amount of maintenance and technical fields open to enlisted men.
          3. Index the pay to inflation in the end it costs more to train specialists than to raise pay.
          4. Use anti-trust regulation to beat BAE over the head.
          5. Invest heavier in a National Guard/Reserve structure. One of the biggest idiocies bandied about is that modern armies are quick to train. Well cannon fodder is but tankers and their maintenance personnel take years as do truly great NCOs, and the easiest way to retain them is a National Guard which people often confuse for the Reserves in the US. However anymore cuts in active personnel would be dangerous to say the least.

          The IDF is a good example on how to get a lot for your money but sadly I don’t the UK or the US are going to bring back National Service barring war with a peer threat. In addition to that the IDF gets the beloved pet of the US discount/free stuff.

          You have to remember in the US as ground forces are it goes like this. The Marines are the Spear, the Army is the Sword and the NG is the Hammer. You need the Marines to secure a landing are and move a perimeter inland slightly. Then follow with heavy armor and infantry divisions from the Regular Army and Guard as needed. It would be hard bordering on impossible to combine those missions. In order to be the Spear the Marines focus on equipment to get into a contested area and high average training to accomplish that. The Army in order to be the Sword focuses on highly maneuverable trained and well equipped units (Active and Reserve Armor, Infantry and Airborne). The Guard to be the Hammer is all about Heavy Infantry and Armor to bludgeon the enemy in submission.

          • Elliot, I think we are in total agreement. My view of the military is for 2 expeditionary Divisions that does not include any land forces. I would then have 4 Divisions each with 4 combat Brigades of 3288 (lets call them infantry) supported by 5 Brigades of support functions.

            Each of the 4 combat Divisions would have the following combat brigades (actual combatants)

            1 x RM
            1x Light Infantry
            1x Mech
            1 x Heavy Armour

            This covers your Spear, Sword and Hammer at a divisional and corps level as the 4 Brigades of RM could be deployed as a single entity.

            Each Div, Brig, Battalion, Company would rotate through 4 levels of readiness (V. High, High, Medium and Low) on a 4 year rotation.

            This allows for all 4 land force Divisions to have a Division and 3 further brigades at very high readiness at any point in time, which should be enough for our immediate needs – A division is circa 32k deployable troops of which at least 13.3k are front line combat troops.

            The interesting thing is giving each division its own assets and getting them to a point of self sustainment at which point we get them to compete against each other to be the best.

            £40bn should be enough to fund the current UK military – £50bn is certainly enough but I wouldn’t provide more funding until the MOD puts in motion a single force structure and creates a more sustainable model.

            I think we can only fund 250k personnel now at a rate that would recruit and retain the right people. My budget gives the majority a 10% pay rise and improved family welfare such as housing, medical etc. And I think it can be done.

          • Seems good to me, 250k is a very realistic target. In order to balance training, equipment, and such.

  9. I really hope the BBC have got this wrong. It actually makes me sick that we might have to take these massive cuts again. Brexit definitely needs to take some of the blames as it’s hammered the value of the pound which has made a number of our procurements more expensive.

    Before anyone says we never should have decided to buy AH64E or the P8 or F35 etc etc…..there were simply no viable alternatives coming from British industry so it was either give up on these capabilities or buy from our American cousins.

    In any case the budgets that should be cut or stopped are the damned Foreign Aid waste of space budget and Welfare. Why the hell should the hard earned tax money of the British people be spent on low lifes who neither earn nor deserve the money they are given. The waste the money they are given on fags and luxury items that they also don’t deserve.

    Foreign Aid is a farce of the highest order, no other country has bothered to follow our lead and the money we spank each year seemingly gets wasted on countries that have GDP’s in excess of or equivalent to our own (China and India spring to mind)

    Sorry if it seems a rant, but I’m a serving member of the military and I love my job and I’m damn proud of our Armed Forces so to see them hollowed out continually over the past 10 years just makes me think why are we even bothering when the government doesn’t seem to give a damn.

    • I think your allowed a rant most people here probably agree with you. I know. I do not understand why we can’t have a foreign policy that says we are going to do A, B, and C and then build the forces that we need. Instead of which we build, cut, improve, cancel and even now I’m not sure the forces themselves have got what they really want.
      You talk about waste. My wife has recently left the N H S and she will tell anyone who cares to listen that the waste is absolutely mind bogling but who wants to listen. Answer. Nobody.

  10. I see the term “hollowed out” being used a lot when describing our armed forces.

    I understand this meaning to be we superficially have the appearance of a major military force, but scratch beneath the surface and you find there no substance to support that appearance.

    I think using the term hollowed out is appropriate and very sad.

  11. There are no votes in defence your average voter is voting for the NHS, Pensions, Welfare and Education defence is way down the list so when cuts are required to cut defence spending is the easy option the political class want to be popular money could be saved from these but to touch them would be political suicide.

  12. HMS Albion crew 325 plus assault RM
    Bay Class crew 70 ( plus RN…as required plus RM assault)
    Tidespring crew 63 ( plus RN…)
    MARS FSS….probably same as Tidespring
    MARS ASS….probably same as Bay class

    Looking at the tonnages, crewing requirements, helo landing spots, well deck vehicle metres and likely RM embarkation numbers and running costs I can see the sense in letting Albion class go in exchange for 2 MARS FSS and 2 MARS ASS. We are not goimg to storm heavily mined and defended beaches. Helicopter assault is the future.

  13. The British Overseas territories must contribute to the Exchequer. They shouldn’t expect assistance without making any financial contribution. After all, some of these islands are important tax havens where thousands of companies are registered. If that is not an option then at least at times of crisis, the foreign aid budget should be used for the overseas territories. Why should British taxpayers pay for the overseas territories? What have we got to gain from them?

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