Wednesday 26 September 2018
Deputy Gavin St Pier, President of the Policy & Resources Committee, has written to Prime Minister Theresa May to outline the island's position regarding a 'No Deal' Brexit. The letter, published below in full, also updates on Guernsey's contingency planning for such a scenario.
Dear Prime Minister
BREXIT 'NO DEAL' CONTINGENCY PLANNING - GUERNSEY
Since I last wrote to you on Brexit matters in March 2017, before the triggering of Article 50, the government of Guernsey has further strengthened the working relationship at both official and political level with your Government, particularly over the last few months. The engagement between the Chief Ministers of the Crown Dependencies with Robin Walker MP is highly valued and provides a governance structure within which our concerns can be raised and discussed frankly. We also value the commitment from the dedicated staff of the Cabinet Office, the Ministry of Justice and the Department for Exiting the EU, in particular the Contact Group chaired by Colin Roberts.
As you would expect, we continue to plan for the prospect of a new partnership between the UK and the EU. It is vitally important that our interests continue to be taken into account in the UK-EU negotiations and to ensure that our ancient and historic constitutional relationship with the Crown is upheld and respected. We hope too that there is now an opportunity to iron out some of the anomalies that have crept up in recent years as regards the way in which British nationals resident in the Crown Dependencies are treated (and might in future be treated) and intend to discuss this further with relevant members of your Government. By way of example, Bailiwick residents are currently treated less favourably in some cases than EU nationals (for example as regards healthcare, education, and even some banking services) despite being British nationals and despite the long established constitutional relationship which exists between us.
As you know, the Bailiwick of Guernsey was not involved in the UK's referendum about leaving the EU, but we must deal with the consequences (both financial and political). It is our view that a deal which provides an orderly exit and a strong economic outlook for the UK is in Guernsey's interests. However, we are also mindful that we need to plan for all eventualities, including a 'no deal' scenario. The formation of a new UK and Crown Dependencies' customsarrangement, something that is currently under negotiation, is critical to our current planning. Tied to this is the extension of the UK's Membership of the World Trade Organisation (WTO). Whilst preparatory work has progressed well, there are still steps to be taken if this is to be achieved in the necessary timescales. A lack of access to the WTO's internationally agreed rules and principles, would create future trading uncertainty for Guernsey. We, therefore, would welcome your Government's ongoing support as we consider and seek to achieve extension of the WTO membership to Guernsey.
We are undertaking 'no deal' planning and have engaged our civil contingencies authority accordingly. Due to our geographical proximity and constitutional links, it is inevitable that our plans will need to adapt in response to the UK's own planning assumptions and will be impacted by decisions made by the UK government. Many of our supply chains are dependent on or linked to the UK's and operate on a 'just in time' basis. The supply lines are dependent on good access to ports on the UK's south coast, reliable transport links, free-flowing borders and the relevant information we share. It will be essential to set up operational frameworks to modify or maintain these current links and practices as necessary post-Brexit.
I would welcome your continued commitment to building on the strong relationships we have and ensuring that the Bailiwick of Guernsey's interests are properly represented. It would be extremely helpful to have even greater co-operation and dialogue between our governments for all scenarios, particularly contingency planning.
I appreciate that your Government is presently subject to many competing interests and views as it faces the hugely challenging task of negotiating a deal with the remaining 27 EU Member States. However, I am cognisant that HM Government also recognises and does take seriously its responsibilities on behalf of the Crown to represent our interests, even where those differ from the UK's. Therefore I ask you to note that a no deal outcome would not be in the Bailiwick of Guernsey's interests.
In light of the public interest in this matter I intend to publish this letter for the benefit of Guernsey's community.
Deputy Gavin St Pier
Chief Minister of Guernsey/ Le Prumier de Giernesi