Five years ago, my research for an article on the lengths companies go to to keep their data secure led me to Sealand, a World War 2 gun platform that was colonised by former English major Roy Bates in 1967. For nearly forty years, he and his family has claimed that as Sealand is located six miles off the coast of Britain it’s outside British jurisdiction and therefore is its own sovereign entity.
In addition to issuing its own passports, currency and stamps, Sealand has established its own economy, and in the late nineties was deemed to be the ideal location for secure data-hosting firm HavenCo to base its operations, hence my visit. As well as being sufficiently remote to safeguard data, Sealand is also believed to have extremely liberal tax laws – inhabitants aren’t expected to pay tax to the British government anyway.
Unfortunately, rough seas prevented me making the short boat trip to Sealand, and so I met its Prince Regent and head of government Michael Bates on British soil instead. He told me of Sealand’s struggle for liberty, an attempted coup on the state in the 1970s and why it should be given diplomatic recognition by global governments. More than anything else, he seemed determined that Sealand would remain a sovereign nation with him and his descendants retaining royal rule for generations. Regardless of the technicalities of Sealand’s legal status, you couldn’t help but admire his determination.
And so the stories this week that seemed to suggest Sealand’s royal family planned to sell up took away some of the charm. However, a quick look on Sealand’s official website suggests all may not be as it seems. Sealand is not ‘up for sale’, rather it’s “seeking inward investment”, and has secured the services of a Spanish property broker to find a long-term tenancy - figures of £500 million have been mentioned. A principality cannot be sold outright, apparently. But it seems it can be rented.