Regarding BREXIT update
I welcome the opportunity to update this Assembly on the ongoing work following the UK's decision, just over one year ago, to leave the European Union.
The last update was provided by Deputy Gavin St Pier earlier this year on Wednesday 8th March. Since then, we have seen an intensification of the engagement strategy that we have been undertaking with the UK Government. This is both in respect of the separation issues and the future partnership between the UK and the EU. Each of these areas of work are complex, technical and will be fundamental to our positioning in the global economy.
Triggering of Article 50
On 29th March, the UK Prime Minister issued a letter to the President of the European Council to formally commence the process of leaving the EU. The UK Government had sought the views of the UK Parliament before doing so. This Assembly had its own debate. We ensured that the views of the States were formally communicated in a letter from Deputy St Pier to the Prime Minister before the UK's Article 50 letter was sent. This included ensuring that the UK Government were aware of the States' views on wishing to provide certainty on the rights of those EU nationals residing in Guernsey on exit day.
The UK Prime Minister's response to this letter highlighted the importance of the relationship between the UK and the islands. This letter affirmed the UK's aspiration to "strengthen the bonds between us as we forge a new relationship with the EU and the wider world". Importantly for the stages that lie ahead, the Prime Minister also recognised the island's own parliamentary processes in respect of Brexit and the UK's commitment to ensuring our interests are properly taken into account.
Following the recent UK General Election Robin Walker MP, Minister at the Department for Exiting the EU, maintained his role in managing the UK engagement with the Crown Dependencies in respect of Brexit. We were pleased to welcome Robin Walker to Guernsey on 8th August to meet with representatives from Guernsey, Alderney and Sark. He took the opportunity to meet representatives from the finance sector, from the fishing industry as well as learn about our immigration and customs arrangements. The visit helped to ensure that Guernsey retains a strong and direct political link within the UK Government department responsible for negotiating the UK's exit from the EU.
The election did see a change at the Ministry of Justice. We were disappointed to hear that Sir Oliver Heald MP would no longer be the Minister with the responsibility for managing the relationship with the Crown Dependencies. We are grateful for his support. However, we were pleased to hear that the Lord Chancellor, Rt Hon David Lidington MP had taken a personal interest in taking over role. It is reassuring to know that a Cabinet member that knows us very well from his previous posts, will have this role during the Brexit negotiations.
Sir, Members will be aware we complement this direct political engagement with the UK Government by maintaining a wide network of contacts in the UK and across the political spectrum.
This includes the well-established and valued relationships that we have through the British-Irish Council. This is further demonstrated by Deputy St Pier's exchange of letters with the Taoiseach in Ireland, Leo Varadkar T.D following his successful election. The exchange emphasises the importance of the BIC as a forum for our jurisdictions to come together and highlights some of the areas of mutual interest, such as our shared commitment to preserving the Common Travel Area. Whilst the UK election and uncertainty in Northern Ireland prevented the last meeting taking place, the next meeting is still scheduled to be held in Jersey during November 2017. Guernsey will be hosting the summit in June 2018 whilst the Brexit negotiations are expected to still be in full swing.
We will also continue our engagement with UK parliamentarians across the political spectrum including the All Party Parliamentary Channel Islands Group, through contact days and attending the main UK Party Conferences. This year Deputy St Pier will be representing us at the Labour Party Conference and Deputy Trott will be representing us at the Conservative Party Conference. We will also engage with the relevant Parliamentary Select Committees. This includes the Justice Select Committee which will continue to be chaired by Bob Neill MP and the House of Lords EU Committee which will continue to be chaired by Lord Boswell. Both of the reports from these Committees on Brexit and the Crown Dependencies, despite being made in the last UK parliament, are still relevant and will still require a UK Government response and may yet be subject to parliamentary debate in the UK.
Supporting this work, Guernsey Finance and its board has now joined, and is actively engaged with, City UK. This is the body representing the interests of the City of London. Our finance sector is closely aligned with the City, and it is important that we not only understand its thinking and approach to Brexit, but where possible provide input into it. This work involves Guernsey Finance, but also representatives of the finance sector, of the Guernsey Financial Services Commission, and of government - including Deputy Trott, who, in his role as Chairman of the Board of Guernsey Finance, is actively involved at a senior level with City UK on their Advisory Council, which brings together representatives of the key stakeholders to advise and lobby government on issues of concern to the financial services sector. This work goes some way to ensuring that we understand the opportunities for and threats to the biggest part of our economy, but also that where we can we act upon them.
Commencement of EU/UK Negotiations
The first round of the Brexit negotiations between the UK and EU took place on the 19th June and these rounds will continue to be held monthly during this first phase of negotiations.
On the 6th June, I attended meetings in Brussels alongside the External Relations Minister from the Government of Jersey. During this time we had the opportunity to meet with Sir Tim Barrow, the Permanent Representative of the United Kingdom to the European Union, and a part of the negotiation team. I was able to discuss with him a number of the island's priorities in relation to Brexit as well as the importance of effective engagement in Brussels after the UK has left the EU including through the Channel Island's Brussels Office.
Since the commencement of the EU negotiations the UK has begun to publish a series of 'position papers' and 'future partnership papers'. The UK papers make assertive references to taking the interests of the Crown Dependencies into account. The EU has also published its own position papers for the negotiations. These papers provide for the UK and EU negotiations to be placed in the public domain for scrutiny before each negotiation session. Transparency has been agreed as a guiding principle in this process by both sides.
This transparent approach is supplemented by an intensification of the direct engagement strategy that has been developed with the UK. This ensures we are able to input into the development of the UK's position papers and that we understand the objective and outcomes of the rounds of the negotiations.
Citizens' rights and movement of people
Sir, in respect of these negotiations the States has expressed its wish to seek to guarantee the rights of EU nationals resident in Guernsey on exit day, this was reinforced by the States' resolution following the debate on the second Policy Letter held in March.
In July, the UK set out its proposals in relation to protecting the rights of EU Citizens in the UK on exit day. Whilst this matter is subject to ongoing negotiations between the UK and the EU, the 'settled status' of UK resident EU nationals as part of the UK's offer is something that we want to ensure that the Crown Dependencies are included in.
We are also working closely with the UK to ensure that those Guernsey residents who are British nationals are taken into account when agreeing the UK's exit agreement, in particular if they happen to be resident in the EU on exit day. This includes those islanders defined as "Channel Islanders" in accordance with Protocol 3.
The UK's negotiations, however, will not change the island's population management regime which came in force on 3 April 2017. This regime controls the right to reside in certain residential properties and to work in Guernsey. The immigration regime being discussed as part of Brexit controls the right to enter and stay in Guernsey. The States of Guernsey and the UK Government share the commitment to the Common Travel Area. This has been reiterated on a number of occasion through our engagement with the UK. It is acknowledged that these arrangements long pre-date the UK's accession to the EU and we want to ensure they are preserved. The population management regime operates in a non-discriminatory way with regards to nationality and runs in tandem to the immigration regime. The two should not be confused, one does not create a residency or employment right that overrides the other. The two regimes should work together to effectively manage the island's population. Again, the population management regime controls should not be subject to any direct change as a result of Brexit but we will need to have regard to the impact of Brexit as we undertake the review of the Population Management Law that the States directed should be undertaken.
Future Customs arrangements
The UK Government has made it clear that its current position is that the UK will be withdrawing from the EU single market. This presents an unprecedented issue for the Bailiwick. The Islands rely on the relationship established by Protocol 3 for the free trade of goods with EU, whilst maintaining the historic right of free trade with the UK. The future arrangements will depend on the terms of the exit negotiations, but one of the possible options could include the extension of the UK's membership of the World Trade Organisation to the Bailiwick. We will also need to consider the necessary infrastructure to support trans-border shipments, which may include the provision of IT.
The UK recently started publishing position papers and discussion papers on its future partnership including on customs arrangements. It is worth noting that the paper sets out the UK Government's commitment to engaging with the Crown Dependencies as it sets its future independent trade policy.
On 2nd July, the UK Government announced its intention to withdraw from the 1964 London Fisheries Convention. This move will take two years before it has effect. One of the purposes of the Convention is to establish access rights for certain EU Member State vessels to commercially fish within the 6-12 nautical mile limit of UK coastal waters. This includes fisheries access rights for French vessels within the 6-12 nautical mile limit of the Bailiwick. This means that the withdrawal of this agreement in respect of the UK will impact Bailiwick waters.
We will be working closely with the UK, as well as engaging with the Normandy fisherman, to ensure that we mitigate from any unintended consequences, including by looking at the extension of our own territorial seas from 3, to 12, nautical miles.
Third Policy Letter
In The Queen's speech following the UK's election, Her Majesty also announced that a series of UK Bills will be introduced in Westminster over the coming months, the first is the 'Repeal Bill', now known as the European Union (Withdrawal) Bill. This will repeal the 1972 European Communities Act and convert EU law into domestic UK law. Other relevant UK Brexit related bills that will go through UK Parliament are on subjects such as customs, trade, immigration and fisheries.
A third Policy Letter is being prepared to develop the themes in the first two Brexit Policy Letters and to direct the preparation of Guernsey's version of the UK's Repeal Bill. Through this Policy Letter the Policy & Resources Committee will ask the States to also direct the preparation of any legislation necessary so that the States can act swiftly to mitigate the impact of the UK's exit from the EU on Guernsey. This will enable us to respond to the uncertain and changing political and legal situations that may arise during the course of the exit negotiations.
Crown Dependency engagement
Sir, I can assure this Assembly that we will continue to work with the States of Alderney and the Chief Pleas of Sark to ensure that both those Islands are fully informed and engaged.
We will also continue to work closely with counterparts in Jersey and the Isle of Man. The Crown Dependencies stand to gain more by sharing a unified approach during this process.
The Brexit Group
The Policy & Resources Committee's Brexit Group meets fortnightly to ensure those directly engaged are well briefed and that the work of the Committees for Home Affairs and Economic Development in response to Brexit are coordinated and in line with our strategy. Moving forwards, the Group will be leading on policy and draft legislation that will be required as a result of the UK's withdrawal and it will co-ordinate the cross-Committee decision making process. This will involve a huge amount of work that will have to be dealt with both effectively and flexibly, and in some cases very quickly to keep pace with the UK-EU negotiations. The Group will also ensure that any opportunities for the Bailiwick identified within the UK's future relationship with the EU are seized upon and maximised where possible.
This group monitors the resources that are dedicated to Brexit. Our current assessment is that the resources allocated to date have been sufficient so far, although this is only through prioritisation against other work streams. We are currently looking at this again in light of the clarity emerging from the UK and EU on the detail of the exit process and the future arrangements. We may need to allocate further resource in specific policy areas - such as for the Committee for Home Affairs in respect of immigration and customs matters. We will need to ensure that the Brexit work can be maintained alongside the other priorities identified alongside this in the Policy & Resource Plan.
Sir, the matter of the UK's exit from the EU remains a priority for Guernsey.
I am confident that we are continuing to ensure we place ourselves in a strong position. However, there is no room for complacency. As the negotiations progress, our engagement will intensify and the complexity of the issues on which we will need to respond will become clearer. This may require quick decision making, collaboration and the nimble allocation of experience, expertise and resource.
We will seek to provide clarity where we can be certain to reassure both individuals and businesses. However, I believe that Guernsey can face up to the uncertainty around Brexit with optimism. This is because of the opportunities, as part of the British Family, presented to us by the development of the UK's independent trade policy. This includes the aspiration of a new deep partnership between the UK and the EU and the establishment of better access to global markets.
The Policy & Resources Committee remains committed to keeping the Assembly and the community regularly updated.
Thank you, Sir.