All world powers act in their national interests. The UK in that instance is no different from any other power.
To understand the workings of world powers and how they respond and react to external pressures, it is vital to understand their national interests.
Now, there are three areas of the national interest worth assessing before embarking on the treacherous road to independence for any Overseas Territory of the UK.
First question: is there any benefit for the UK holding on to Oversea Territories against the wishes of the citizens of those territories? The answer to that question is clearly no. Why? Because in a world that has moved beyond the colonialism and imperialism of the 1940s and 50s, it is simply futile for any world power, even powers such as the USA or EU to hold on to territory if the inhabitants of those territories want the power out.
The last thing the UK needs is street protests, demonstrations, and riots, which will be traumatic for the UKs international standing and reputation. Holding on to territory that hosts a population that wants to be free of the UK is simply not worth the ‘’grief’’ it will cause to both Westminster and Whitehall.
However, it is probable that the inhabitants of all the OTs, including residents of the Virgin Islands, are satisfied with the status quo in spite of the drum beats for independence by a few ‘’elements.’’
The reason for that preceding supposition is that there has been no real protest or uprising in any of the OTs by residents demanding independence. Residents of OTs appear satisfied with their statuses as British Overseas Territory Citizens, from the Falkland Islands to Gibraltar.
The fact that Overseas Caribbean Territories host large black populations is not a factor unless those populations experience racism and oppression which cannot be measured with any certainty. Oversea Territory residents understand there are advantages in being under the UK Umbrella.
Residents are also wise enough to appreciate that there will be economic and strategic consequences leaving the umbrella of the UK, such as increased costs of national defense, loss of oversight of local politicians that is the key check and balance inherent in the Oversea Territory constitution and conventions. Then in the event of a rogue government, residents understand oversight means the government will be swiftly brought into check. There is the subject of global investors who are happy to place their cash in territories that are governed by UK laws, financial probity, and financial culture and practice. Direct and Indirect Foreign Investment is crucial to the Oversea Territory economy.
The second matter of the UK national interest: are there benefits to the UK holding on to Over Sea Territories in various parts of the world. The answer to that question is more ambiguous. That answer is less clear.
With Brexit, the UK is looking for global trade alliances to replace the inevitable loss of trade from Europe. The Overseas Territories are a type of UK satellite, a bridgehead, where investors can park cash cheaply, before moving that cash to other places where it can be invested in everything from banking and tourism to manufacturing.
Parking assets and cash on an Oversea Territory is a wise idea as these investors will avoid rules and regulations from being part of the European Union. Furthermore, there are tax and regulatory advantages sitting you cash offshore.
The UK under Boris Johnson remains wedded to supply-side economics and free trade. The Overseas Territory is a great asset that ensures capital can be moved about without the regulatory hindrances of being in the European Union, even in the UK.
Banking, insurance, and trade links between the City of London and the OTs can be leveraged to compensate for losses UK investment banking will experience as the UK departs the EU.
The final matter of the UK national interest is the residents of the Oversea Territory themselves. The UK respects the legitimately constituted governments of the OTs but feels responsible for the people of the OTs directly, whether resident or citizen.
As British Overseas Territory Citizens the UK has a duty, and the UK will want to know that any move to independence is what the people actually want.
Bear in mind that residents of OTs are a diverse population with equally diverse views. It is simply not enough for a number of politicians to sing the Independence Song without a clear signal the vast majority of the people want independence.
Hence the only route to independence is a referendum, which OT politicians dare not call as they probably believe the people will not vote for Independence.
Don’t ever wrestle with a pig. You’ll both get dirty, but the pig will enjoy it.