Mr Penrose, MP for Weston-super-Mare, suggested such a move would be an ideal way to cement the relationship between the UK and its scattered overseas territories after Brexit. The former junior Northern Ireland minister told Express.co.uk: “It creates an opportunity for them to access the UK’s internal market, that’s potentially, I would hope, useful and valuable in a post-Brexit world, both for the UK, but also for the individual overseas territories. “But also it means that if they are going to be involved in that way then they may decide they want some democratic representation along with us, and I think that’s only fair and right.
“It also means that if something does happen along the way in the future – a hurricane that devastates somewhere, wherever that might be – they’ve got a voice here so they can stand up and make their case and it is just that much faster and more direct.”
There are a total of 14 British overseas territories scattered around the globe – Akrotiri and Dhekelia; Anguilla; Bermuda; British Antarctic Territory; British Indian Ocean Territory; British Virgin Islands; the Cayman Islands; the Falkland Islands; Gibraltar; Montserrat; Pitcairn, Henderson, Ducie and Oeno Islands; Saint Helena, Ascension and Tristan da Cunha; South Georgia and the South Sandwich Island; and Turks and Caicos Islands.
With the exception of Akrotiri ad Dhekelia, which is under the auspices of the Ministry of Defence, and the British Antarctic Territory, all are members of the United Kingdom Overseas Territories Association .
Mr Penrose added: “My proposal is that each of the territories would then become a sort of stand-alone part of the United Kingdom in the same way as Scotland, England, Wales and Northern Ireland, and so each one would have the same democratic status as the four democratic parts of the United Kingdom.
“They would all have their own devolution deal and they would all have their own local Parliaments and assemblies but those would be sort of formalised, and then they would send MPs to Westminster to sit and complete the deal and make sure they have got that voice when the rubber hits the road next year.”
Such a model is not without precedent, Mr Penrose said.
He explained: “The French have done this – they have not done it for all their equivalents of overseas territories but they have done it for some because that is what worked for them, and for them it works.
“I wouldn’t want to push the analogy too far, but it isn’t as if this is completely untried territory. I think we need to come up with a United Kingdom answer for a United Kingdom situation.”
One of the difficulties lies in the fact that the overseas territories are sparsely and unevenly populated – Gibraltar has a population of roughly 32,000 thousand, while the Falklands is home to about one-tenth of this.
Mr Penrose said: “You would need to give the question of how many MPs representing which islands to the Boundary Commission.
“That’s got to be done independently of politicians and political parties.
“The important thing is the representation is there and it is constitutionally guaranteed.
“It would depend on what the Boundary Commission independently comes up with.
“And what they would do for any other constituency in the UK is that they would look at where there are similarities and communities you can group together.
“Bear in mind as well that there are a couple of constituencies in the existing UK which have small rural populations and that is baked into the Act of Parliament that dictates how the Boundary Commission is geared so I think for example some of the Scottish Islands are allowed to be a constituency with a much smaller population.”
Mr Penrose also stressed there would be nothing obligatory about the concept, as envisaged by him.
He said: “Each of them are going to have to make their own decisions based on what their particular situation is and some of them may decide ‘no, it’s not right for us now or ever,’ and some of them may decide ‘it’s a great idea, let’s do it tomorrow’.
“The whole point of this is self determination and if we make the generous open-handed offer and put it on the table, they can pick it up now if they want to and we can leave it open.”
The suggestion received a lukewarm reaction from representatives of both the Falklands and Gibraltar.
Richard Hyslop, the UK Representative of the Falkland Islands Government, told Express.co.uk: “This issue comes up quite a lot.
“There are members of Parliament who would, with the best of intentions, like to offer the islanders things like dedicated members of Parliament, like they’ve got in French overseas territories.
“They are literally part of France. We are very proud of the fact that we are in the UK family but we are also very proud of the fact that we are a self-governing nation, raise our own taxes, elect our own members of our assembly and that we decide our matters in the interests of our Islanders, from everything from defence and foreign affairs.
“But also at the moment, if ever there is an issue with the Falkland Islands, we can go to 650 members of Parliament.
“If we had our own MP, that would decrease our representation from 650 to one.”
A Gibraltar Government spokesman told Express.co.uk: “Her Majesty’s Government of Gibraltar continues and will continue to explore the possibility of representation for Gibraltar in the Westminster Parliament but in a way that Gibraltar would retain all the constitutional powers that are currently exercised by its own Government and Parliament.”
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