Stories are emerging that a group of London entrepreneurs has laid plans to move from Old Street to Sealand, an artificial island which lies 12km off the Suffolk coast outside UK jurisdiction. The agreement was reached to fulfil the dreams of the current occupiers of becoming a recognised country eligible for EU membership and grants. The island is already listed as the world’s smallest independent sovereign state.
The previous owner Prince Michael Bates will remain but will now be called Emperor of Sealand and the new owners are seeking to gain EU recognition to allow them to apply for EU membership before the Brexit deadline in 2019. Under Bates’ father, Prince Roy, the island tried to gain recognition as an independent nation since he seized the island in 1967 with the intention of launching a pirate radio station, Radio Essex. The previous incumbents, forced out by Bates, were the owners of pirate station Wonderful Radio London.
Veil of secrecy
The new would-be residents were not willing to be named for fear of reprisals from the UK government but did talk by phone: “We are serious about this. Brexit will harm our chances of funding and we are doing all in our power to maintain our right to European citizenship.”
The island only has 550 square metres of habitable surface but there is room for expansion. The new residents hope that EU status will allow them a grant to expand their real estate by the addition of decommissioned oil rigs from Norway. “There is a lot to resolve,” said the spokesperson in Silicon Roundabout, “We have the undertaking that a coffee franchise – I cannot name the company – will be granted and we have already named what will become the local supermarket The Beard & Bun Coffee House.”
The emigrants also want to rename Sealand but there is a dispute between ‘Silicon Island, Sealand’ and ‘Appland, Sealand’. The former name is considered too kitsch by some and the latter too narrow by others. The renaming would also be subject to Bates’ approval, however, the new residents would qualify for a Sealand passport. After the adoption of the Constitution of the Principality of Sealand in 1975, a flag, national anthem, postage stamps, currency, and passports were introduced.
Sealand is attractive because it is already home to the HavenCo data hosting company, its only industry.
This is not the first time Sealand has attracted the attention of the IT world. In 2007, file sharing organisation The Pirate Bay unsuccessfully attempted to buy the island when Swedish laws were changed to incorporate harsher copyright regulations. The negotiations started when Spanish real estate company InmoNaranja was instructed to offer the island for sale at a price of €750m (£638m).
In 1978, the island’s history took a Game of Thrones aura when Sealand’s “Prime Minister” Alexander Auerbach seized control of the platform and imprisoned Bates’ son – his father and mother had been lured away. Prince Regent Michael Bates was subsequently dumped on the Netherland’s coast with no money or passport. Roy Bates hired a helicopter (piloted by a former stunt man in James Bond movies) and, in an act of great bravery, Michael Bates slid down a rope onto Sealand armed with a shotgun. The unarmed occupying force surrendered immediately and were deported.
In Germany, Auerbach’s successor on the “Sealand Rebel Government in exile” Johannes Seiger still claims Sealand and his right wing movement is battling for the re-establishment of the German Reich there and in Germany.
The entrepreneurs were unable to say whether the move was imminent or commit to their resolve to make the move. “There is much to be confirmed,” the spokesman concluded.