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CM warns of ‘unabashed modern colonialism’ after UK move on transparency

Any attempt by the UK to legislate directly in Gibraltar would be “a democratic abomination” amounting to “utter and unabashed modern colonialism", Chief Minister Fabian Picardo said in a letter to a Conservative MP.

Mr Picardo was writing to Andrew Mitchell, one of the main backers of a legislative move in the UK to force British overseas territories to make registers of beneficial ownership public as a part of corporate transparency drive.

The move, which envisages the UK legislating in overseas territories through a mechanism called an Order in Council, was included in an amendment to the Sanctions and Anti-Money Laundering Act passed by the UK parliament last week.

It will have no practical effect in Gibraltar’s case because the measures it seeks to implement will already be in place here well ahead of the deadline envisaged by the UK.

But the Chief Minister has warned that the move risks setting a damaging precedent in the UK’s relationship with its overseas territories, including Gibraltar.

The warning was set out in a detailed four-page letter sent to Mr Mitchell before the legislation was rubber-stamped by the Uk Parliament last week.

In the letter, a copy of which has been seen by the Chronicle, the Chief Minister explained that Gibraltar enjoyed “full self-government” under the 2006 Constitution in all matters other than external relations except EU matters, defence and security.

While the UK retained powers to legislate directly for Gibraltar, these had never been used.

Mr Picardo reminded Mr Mitchell that Gibraltar’s government was democratically elected every four years and that Gibraltar complied with international standards on all matters.

“If an elected government of Gibraltar gets things wrong - as, no doubt, all governments of all nations do - or if we take a contrary view to UK on any matter of policy, insofar as they do not put the UK in breach of its unequivocal international obligations those are matters for the people of Gibraltar,” he wrote.

“It would be a democratic abomination that a Government or a parliament that is not elected by the people of Gibraltar should countenance legislating for Gibraltar.”

“Indeed, it would be utter and unabashed modern colonialism.”

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