Jamaican Prime Minister Portia Simpson-Miller said she would welcome apology from Britain for role in slavery under Empire
Jamaican Prime Minister Portia Simpson-Miller said she would welcome apology from Britain for role in slavery under Empire (Reuters) Reuters

The Foreign Office is not ruling out saying sorry to Jamaica for the role of Britain's ancestors in the practice of slavery in the country after the Jamaican leader said she would welcome an apology.

"History offers important lessons. We will use these lessons to develop forward-looking relationships across the world that prioritise our equal partnerships of shared priorities," a spokeswoman for the Foreign and Commonwealth Office said.

When pressed by International Business Times UK to clarify the likelihood of a British apology, the Foreign Office refused to rule it out.

"The British government has previously acknowledged Britain's role in the slave trade, as well as the fact that this was the first country to abolish the trade," the spokeswoman said.

"It is not something that we shy away from and we are keen to use lessons from history to move forward on a more equal footing."

Portia Simpson-Miller, prime minister of Jamaica, said that if Britain wants to apologise for the "wicked and brutal" slavery in its imperial past, it would be "fine with us".

"No race should have been subjected to what out ancestors were subjected to," she told the BBC.

"We gained our freedom through the sweat, blood and tears of our ancestors and we are now free."

Thousands of Africans were enslaved by the British and taken to Jamaica, where they were forced to do back-breaking work on plantations for about 200 years, starting in the 17th century.

Her comments come as Prince Harry is due to arrive in Jamaica as part of his tour of the Caribbean.

Britain's monarch is still head of state in Jamaica because the country is part of the Commonwealth.

It was recently announced that a referendum will be held on the country becoming a republic and removing Queen Elizabeth II as head of state.

"Even if the Queen does not remain head of state for Jamaica, the Queen will be welcome to visit at any time and she will be treated in the same way she has been treated for all the years she has been visiting Jamaica," Simpson-Miller said.

"It is not about getting rid of the Queen - who could get rid of the Queen? She is a wonderful, beautiful lady.

"The decision to become a republic shouldn't be taken in the context of us wanting to get rid of the Queen," she added.

Recently she said that becoming a republic is "about a country coming of age and wanting to repatriate its sovereignty".