The British Foreign Secretary has declined to veto the repeal of gay marriage in Bermuda, part of the British Overseas Territories.

When did Britain last veto, or threaten to veto, legislation in such territories, especially for issues not involved with foreign affairs?

  • Are you even sure they've ever done so? Feb 8, 2018 at 12:51
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    Britain certainly prevailed upon the Hong Kong authorities, in the 1970s, to abolish the death penalty for murder, and it drew protests from the then colony. Indeed, since the ultimate right of appeal in all Crown dependencies, (and in some Commonwealth countries) is to the Privy Council, death penalties are invariably overturned.
    – WS2
    Feb 8, 2018 at 14:57
  • @WS2: Though that's not technically legislation. It's more like overturning a judge's decision. And as you noted, it was then still, technically, a colony. (It became a British Dependent Territory in 1981.) Feb 8, 2018 at 16:59
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    In 2004, Britain effectively took control of the Pitcairn Islands. I'm not sure if Island Council's views on the age of consent count as a valid legislation, though. Feb 9, 2018 at 7:29
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    On a related note, in 2009, the UK took direct control of the Turks and Caicos Islands, due to government corruption. New elections took place in late 2012. Apr 4, 2018 at 14:42

2 Answers 2


The Channel Islands are not British Overseas Territories, but they are a Crown dependency and the Crown does have the power to veto laws created in the Channel islands. Thus are in some ways similar to a Overseas territory.

The island of Sark is a small populated island in the Channel Islands. It has a small Parliament (the Chief Pleas), that also acts as an executive. Prior reform, the Chief Pleas was dominated by the owners of feudal landholdings on Sark, (called "tenants"). There was pressure from the UK government to reform the Chief Pleas and make it more democratic. Sark proposed a Parliament composed of equal numbers of "tenants" and resident non-landowners. The UK Lord Chancellor made it clear that this was insufficient reform, and that the veto would be used, if this proposal were to be formally presented for Royal Assent.

This gives an example of the threat of veto being used to change an internal matter of a Dependency of the Crown, (although not an overseas territory)

Ultimately this ended up in the Supreme Court, as two of the Tenents are the Barclay Brothers, and they wanted to preserve their rights as Tenants. The court decided that the UK government were within their rights to use prerogative powers in this way.


Not all British Overseas Territories have legislatures. The Sovereign Base Areas of Akrotiri and Dhekelia, for example, do not, but the question presupposes a BOT which has a legislature and a constitution which provides for the possibility of a United Kingdom veto as part of the legislative process.

I do not know of any BOT which has such a constitution.

Another answer points out that the legislative procedure for the Channel Islands involves the Bill which has been approved by the Jersey or Guernsey legislature being passed to the Committee for the Affairs of Jersey and Guernsey (a committee of H M Privy Council which includes the Lord Chancellor) for its consideration and report with the possibility that the committee might not recommend it for Royal Assent. That would be almost unheard of but the key point to note is that Jersey and Guernsey are not BOT and the legislative process in a BOT which has a legislature does not involve H.M Privy Council so there is no obvious parallel.

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