Andrekos Varnava


Commentators universally accept that successive British Governments wanted sovereignty over Cyprus until Harold Macmillan became Prime Minister in January 1957 who then decided to relinquish Cyprus. This assertion is made because the Macmillan Government had determined that the whole of Cyprus was not needed as a base and that bases in Cyprus were sufficient for British military purposes. The Macmillan Government’s plans for a solution, however, never included the complete withdrawal of British sovereignty over the island. Ultimately, Britain was not involved in terminating its colonial rule over Cyprus and was indeed reluctant to accept independence as a solution. By tracing the development of the concept of sovereign enclaves, a gap in the published historiography will be filled, while also answering what it was that made sovereignty over Cyprus so vital to British defence policy. The establishment of Sovereign Base Areas on the island questions the view that Cyprus was “relinquished”, let alone “decolonised”. The delay between the signing of the Zurich-London Accords and Cypriot independence, blamed on Makarios’ uncompromising attitude towards British military needs, will be reviewed. This article is a reinterpretation of the Macmillan Government’s Cyprus policy.



Cyprus, Harold Macmillan, Sovereignty, Decolonisation, Sovereign Bases Areas