EXCL Cross-party bid to give people in Overseas Territories an automatic right to join the British army
MPs from across the political divide have launched a bid to allow citizens of Overseas Territories the automatic right to join the British army, PoliticsHome can reveal.
Labour MP Luke Pollard and Conservative MP Andrew Bowie said the existing rule that those from the territories must have been living in the UK for five years before they can sign up must be changed.
Writing for The House magazine, the two MPs argued it was time to “correct that error” and “lift a barrier that should never have been put in place”.
And they said it was vital to “forge stronger ties with Britain’s Overseas Territories and show that Britain is truly global” as it heads towards Brexit.
"At a time when recruitment is difficult we are missing a trick and that is why, together, we have launched a cross-party campaign to remove these residency requirements for citizens of the Overseas Territories,” they wrote.
"We believe it is now time to correct that error and allow British subjects living in British Overseas Territories to join the British armed forces as any British passport holder in the UK can.
"Given the historic contribution of our Overseas Territories to our nation, removing these residency requirements for citizens of the Overseas Territories would be one further step in underlining our strong and lasting relationship with them.”
Some 76 men from the Falklands volunteered for the armed forces during World War I, 20 of whom were killed.
Others from Bermuda, the British Virgin Islands and Montserrat have also defended the UK in armed conflict.
The call to change the rules came after Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson blasted the slow recruitment process for new troops.
He said it was “unacceptable” that applications take an average of 300 days to be completed while the regular army stands some 4,000 soldiers short of its target strength.