Sir Michael Ellis has just returned from the former British protectorate of Somaliland and explains why the UK must lead the way in formally recognizing it.
By Sir Michael Ellis MP
The Red Sea is a crucial artery for international trade- and the free passage of it is essential for the maintenance of international order.
The strategic importance of this area has been highlighted in recent weeks by the damage caused to world trade by yet another of Iran’s terrorist proxies, this time the Houthis in Yemen, and their persistent attacks on maritime flow.
Most cargo vessels now prefer to take alternative routes at enormous expense and delay rather than risk piratical attacks or drone strikes.
Meanwhile, despite repeated countermeasures by the Americans and British, the Houthis continued their offensive, risking loss of life on board these vessels as well as oil pollution from damaged tankers and the economic damage caused by diverting the flow of international trade.
But the West have a little-known strategic ally in the Red Sea region which could help restore stability to troubled waters- indeed a friendly pro-West government on the coast of East Africa, bordering the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden.
A country with historic colonial ties to the UK- the former British Protectorate of Somaliland.
Somaliland has been actively trying to build relationships with the West. In the United States, this has apparently angered controversial Democratic Representative Ilan Omar of Minnesota, who has recently been accused of siding with Somalia in a speech which she says was incorrectly translated.
Somaliland is not currently recognized by the international community as an independent state, which is ironic as it was under British control from the 1880s, a British colony from 1898, and a British Protectorate until its orderly independence in 1960.
Today its borders are exactly the same as those signed over to them by the late Queen’s representative Lord Mountbatten in June 1960.
Ethiopia recently issued a memorandum acknowledging the recognition of Somaliland as a sovereign state- the first country to do so and a logical step when one considers that when Somalia was formed in 1960, there was no formal agreement between the newly independent Somaliland and the rest of what is now Somalia to create a formal union.
An informal union was agreed soon after independence in 1960 but was discontinued in 1991 when the civil war broke out in Somalia. For the past 33 years, Somaliland has been de facto its own state but unrecognized by the international community.
Somaliland is not a breakaway region of Somalia. It was simply an independent state which formed an informal union with another state in 1960, and when the violent civil war in Somalia began in 1991, the Republic of Somaliland was proclaimed, with the government in Hargeisa reverting to their former British Somaliland boundaries.
The port of Berbera on Somaliland’s Gulf of Aden coast is strategically important and a potential location for American and British warships. Ethiopia’s move to recognize Somaliland is an important first step.
The West needs all the friends it can get in a time of worrying instability in the world and here is a friend looking to help the West in a region where such allies are few and far between. It is in the UK’s strategic and economic interests to recognize Somaliland- but it would also be the morally right thing to do.
The Rt Hon Sir Michael Ellis KBE KC MP was born in Northampton at the Barratt Maternity Home in 1967 and has lived and worked in Northampton his whole life. Michael graduated from University with a Bachelor of Law degree, obtaining a First Class in British Constitutional Law and winning the Regional Government Award for the highest scoring in that subject that year.
Michael was subsequently Called to the Bar at the Honorable Society of the Middle Temple in 1993 and was thereafter a practicing Barrister in the criminal law field for 17 years in the Northampton area. Almost all of his defense representation was for clients on Legal Aid who were unable to afford private legal representation. Michael ceased legal practice when he was elected to Parliament in May 2010.
In December 2006 Michael was selected by the general public in an Open Primary to be the Conservative Candidate standing for Parliament to represent Northampton North.
In the General Election of May 2010 Michael defeated the sitting Labour candidate and was Elected to the House of Commons as Conservative Member of Parliament for the constituency of Northampton North.
In February 2011, Michael became a member of the Home Affairs Select Committee of the House of Commons, one of the most high-profile committees of the House, which deals with issues such as policing and immigration, and he played a leading part for over four years in the major enquiries the Committee conducted, including into Police conduct and surveillance, and national security issues.
The then Prime Minister David Cameron appointed Michael to be Parliamentary Advisor to the Chairman of the Conservative Party (Rt Hon Lord Feldman of Elstree) in September 2012, a position Michael held until May 2015.
At Parliament, Michael established the All-Party Parliamentary Group on the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee and became its Chairman. He proposed the gift, from both Houses of Parliament, to celebrate The Queen’s Diamond Jubilee, of a stained glass window for Her Late Majesty Queen Elizabeth II. He personally raised nearly £100,000 from Parliamentarians from across the political spectrum towards this project and no public funds were therefore needed.
In May 2015, Michael was appointed Parliamentary Private Secretary to the then Home Secretary, Rt Hon Theresa May. Michael supported the Home Secretary in this role, acting in an advisory role and as a conduit between Mrs May and other Members of Parliament.
Following Theresa May’s rise to the position of Prime Minister in July 2016, Michael was appointed a Government Minister and made Deputy Leader of the House of Commons, a role which saw Michael help to arrange the Government business in the Commons, as well as scrutinizing all Government legislation before it came before the House of Commons. As well as supporting the Leader, Michael took debates on behalf of a number of Government departments.
In January 2018 Michael was promoted and appointed Minister for Arts, Heritage and Tourism at the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport. Michael’s ministerial portfolio included responsibility for the Arts, (including theatre, dance, art exhibitions, opera, ballet), Libraries, national museums (including the British Museum, the Tate, the V&A, Science Museum etc.) and for listed buildings, the historic royal palaces, cultural diplomacy and cultural property and the tourism sector.
In May 2019, Michael was promoted by the outgoing Prime Minister Theresa May to the rank of Minister of State and created Minister of State for Transport.
In July 2019 when Boris Johnson became Prime Minister, he promoted Michael further, appointing him to the position of Her Majesty’s Solicitor General for England and Wales. This role drew on Michael’s legal experience, and saw him supporting the Attorney General in the superintendence of the Government Legal Department, the Crown Prosecution Service, the Service Prosecuting Authority, HM Crown Prosecution Service Inspectorate and the Serious Fraud Office, as well as on civil litigation and advice on civil law matters and on the public interest function.
Michael was honored to be appointed by the Late Queen as one of Her Majesty’s Queen’s Counsel in July 2019.
In October 2019 Michael was appointed to Her Majesty’s Privy Council and Sworn of Her Late Majesty’s Most Honorable Privy Council in February 2020.
In 2020 Michael was asked by the Speaker of the House of Commons and the Lord Speaker of the House of Lords to lead a cross-party project to raise funds and choose the gift of a bronze sculpture of the heraldic beast of the United Kingdom as a Gift from Parliamentarians of all parties for the Platinum Jubilee of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II. Michael raised the funds for this Gift from MPs and Peers and no taxpayer money was required. The sculpture was unveiled by His Majesty The King at Parliament in December 2022.
In March 2021 Michael was further promoted to the position of Her Majesty’s Attorney General for England and Wales.
In September 2021 Michael was appointed to the Cabinet Office in the role of Her Majesty’s Paymaster General, and was then further promoted to a Cabinet-sitting position as Minister for the Cabinet Office in February 2022.
In September 2022, the then Prime Minister Liz Truss appointed Michael to the position of Her Majesty’s Attorney General for England and Wales for the second time.
Since late October 2022, Michael has been continuing to serve the people of Northampton North from the backbenches.
In June 2023 Michael was appointed a Knight Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (KBE) for ‘political and public service’ by His Majesty The King.
Michael has served in Government in eight ministerial roles and ten governmental positions under four Prime Ministers over a period of ten years. He has been appointed to Cabinet on three occasions. He is the first Northampton MP to have been appointed to Cabinet in around 100 years.
Personal Website: www.michaelellis.co.uk
Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/MichaelEllisNorthampton
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