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Statement by Deputy Le Tocq, Lead Member for External Affairs

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Wednesday 24 March 2021

UK-EU Trade and Cooperation Agreement

Mr Bailiff

Bailiwick parliaments decided to participate in UK-EU Trade and Cooperation Agreement

On Sunday 27th December, this assembly considered the Policy Letter[1] about the implications of the end of the Brexit transition period and the UK-EU Trade and Cooperation Agreement (the TCA).  That Policy Letter enabled the three Bailiwick parliaments to make decisions about the new relationship with the EU.

The Policy Letter was published on 24th December - much later than the Committee had wanted or anticipated earlier in 2020.  It was the earliest that a Policy Letter could be published, as the UK-EU negotiations concluded late in the evening of 23rd December and an announcement was made by the UK and EU in the afternoon of the 24th.  The full legal text of the TCA was not available to be included in the Policy Letter and was not in the public domain at that time.  This gave limited opportunity for in depth analysis of the full text of the agreement before the end of the transition period.  So, the Bailiwick's parliaments were asked to consider the principles of the TCA as it would apply to the Bailiwick based on the information that was available and in the public domain. 

In addition, the Bailiwick's parliaments considered the principles of the TCA before the UK parliament did.  That was to avoid any constitutional difficulties that would have arisen if the UK parliament had been asked whether to ratify an international agreement and extend its application to the Bailiwick before the Bailiwick had decided whether it wanted to be included.  Consideration by all those parliaments took place before the end of the Brexit transition period at 11pm on 31st December.

Update following Bailiwick parliamentary decisions

Today, I'm pleased to be able to update the States on what has happened since 27th December. 

The Resolutions, made by the States - and by Alderney and Sark - in December, authorised the Policy & Resources Committee to consider the terms of the TCA and to "agree and signal approval" of that agreement or treaty on behalf of the Bailiwick.  So, on 27th December, the President of the Committee wrote to the UK Government to indicate that the Bailiwick's parliaments had approved the principles of the TCA as it applied to the Bailiwick. 

Having only had limited time after the text of the TCA was finalised, the Committee received preliminary advice from the Law Officers of the Crown and considered this in parallel with the legal text of the TCA on 31st December.  The Committee decided and confirmed that day to the UK Government that, in the short time available, no matters had yet been identified or arisen which were incompatible with the principles approved by the Bailiwick's parliaments just days earlier.

Review of the TCA legal text

As Members will recall, there is a 'sunset clause' or cooling off period relating to the Crown Dependencies which, in our case, can be activated by either the Bailiwick or the EU.  The clause was inserted to allow time for a more detailed review of the TCA as negotiations ended so close to the end of the transition period.

The Law Officers of the Crown reviewed the text of the TCA in more detail after 1st January and advised the Committee accordingly.  The Future Partnership Delivery Group (FPDG) also considered the matter at a meeting on 1st March.  FPDG has representatives from each of the Principal Committees, Alderney and Sark.  FPDG did not identify any issues of concern which meant that the Bailiwick could not continue to participate in the TCA.  That view was available to the Policy & Resources Committee when it considered the TCA text on 2nd March.  The Committee concluded that the TCA (including its Protocols and Annexes) gives satisfactory effect to the principles agreed by the Bailiwick's assemblies, including the 'relevant, proportionate and practical' criteria which were identified in the Committee's earlier Policy Letter of January 2020[2].  Consequently, the Committee confirmed to the UK Government that the Bailiwick wishes to continue to participate in the TCA.

FPDG, TPAP and TPF

It has been said before, but bears repeating, that the Committee is very grateful for the input, support and advice it received from FPDG and the Trade Policy Advisory Panel.  Following consideration by the relevant Committees, FPDG will be dissolved at the end of the sunset clause period and TPAP has already been dissolved.  The Committee forEconomic Development is setting up an industry liaison group to help inform policy formation.  This Trade Policy Forum will assist as future trade relationship agreements with other countries are negotiated by the UK and as the Bailiwick pursues opportunities to be included in these.  Guernsey and the wider Bailiwick could also consider being included in other types of agreements that the UK might negotiate with other countries.

Related matters

I will not repeat here other measures which were put in place by the States of Guernsey to help with stability and continuity at the end of the transition period - they are outlined in statements made to the States in the last six weeks of 2020 by me[3] and the President of the Committee[4] and in the December 2020 Policy Letter.  Those measures included work that extended the Bailiwick's territorial seas in July 2019; a customs arrangement signed in 2018 with the UK that came into effect at the end of the transition period; and the extension of the UK's membership of the World Trade Organization to the Bailiwick from the end of the transition period.

Next steps

Work to implement and maintain compliance with the TCA is ongoing in Guernsey and the wider Bailiwick, it did not finish at the end of the transition period on 31st December.  It will need to continue to be prioritised and adequately resourced.  Corresponding work is also taking place in the UK and the EU.  

The Bailiwick put in place an interim fisheries licensing regime which took effect at the end of the transition period.  Since then, the Committee for Economic Development has developed a new licensing regime, working alongside the other islands in the Bailiwick and the UK.  This work has not yet concluded; it includes receiving and verifying the track record evidence from the EU and issuing licences as required for the new TCA-based licensing regime.  It is hoped that the interim regime will be replaced by the new regime soon, bringing clarity on the number of French vessels that can fish in our waters and providing greater control by the Bailiwick of all commercial fishing activity in its territorial waters.  Related discussions about access to nearby ports for landing fish continue with our French neighbours.

Decisions in the UK and EU can have a political and operational effect on the implementation of parts of the TCA in the Bailiwick and are being monitored.  Governance arrangements for the TCA between the UK and EU and between the UK and the Bailiwick are being put in place in accordance with the TCA text, including what might happen in the case of any disputes. 

Work to manage the wider effects of Brexit will likely continue for years - it includes trade-related aspects, such as sanitary and phytosanitary measures and product regulation, and broader issues such as the Bailiwick's wider relationship with the EU, any potential changes to relationships with other countries and work to maintain and enhance Guernsey's constitutional resilience.  In essence, the UK's departure from the EU and the start of the UK-EU TCA creates a more complex set of relationships.   Those new relationships and new obligations will require continuous monitoring to ensure the Bailiwick can take advantage of opportunities, whilst we also ensure ongoing compliance with international obligations.  There will be additional policy and operational requirements from the States which have not had to be considered in the past.

Managing the effects of Brexit has been identified as one of the three main priorities for the States, as explained in the Government Work Plan[5].  It is for Committees to take the lead and keep under review relevant policy development, administrative practices or procedures and legislation under their mandates which are directly or indirectly impacted by Guernsey's participation in the TCA and the wider implications of Brexit, including membership of the WTO and participation in other trade agreements.   The Policy & Resources Committee will continue to be mindful of wider implications for international relations and constitutional matters; it will maintain its coordinating role, advise Committees where necessary and provide support for external engagement.

The Policy & Resources Committee is progressing other related workstreams: including work to determine and agree the individual coordinates for maritime boundaries which have existed since the Bailiwick's territorial seas were extended in July 2019; and a bilateral discussion with the EU about tax information exchange and administrative assistance regarding certain indirect taxes in line with the political declaration made alongside the TCA.

The Bailiwick did not ask for or participate in the UK's decision to leave the EU.  However, together, we prepared carefully, thoroughly and rapidly for Brexit in January 2020 and for the end of the transition period in December 2020.   In line with the strategy agreed by the States of Deliberation in June 2016[6], the States and its officials have worked closely, tirelessly and effectively with others in the Bailiwick and with the governments of the UK, Jersey and Isle of Man.  The Bailiwick is part of the new UK-EU Trade and Cooperation Agreement and is seeking new opportunities as the UK negotiates its way to new relationships with other nations.   The Policy & Resources Committee will continue to do all that it can to enable Guernsey and the wider Bailiwick to flourish in the future as a distinct and distinctive part of the British family.


[1] Billet d'État XXIX of 2020 https://gov.gg/CHttpHandler.ashx?id=134861&p=0 and Resolutions of 27th December 2020 https://gov.gg/CHttpHandler.ashx?id=134872&p=0

[2] Billet d'État II of 2020 https://gov.gg/CHttpHandler.ashx?id=123458&p=0 and Resolutions of 17th January 2020 https://gov.gg/CHttpHandler.ashx?id=123020&p=0

[3] Statement by Deputy Le Tocq, Lead Members for External Affairs, Policy & Resources Committee, 25th November, 2020 https://gov.gg/article/179819/First-Statement-by-Deputy-Le-Tocq-Lead-Member-for-External-Affairs

[4] Statement by the President, Policy & Resources Committee, 17th December, 2020 https://gov.gg/article/180448/Statement-by-the-President-of-the-Policy--Resources-Committee

[5] Billet d'État VI of 2021 https://gov.gg/CHttpHandler.ashx?id=136247&p=0

[6]  Billet d'État VI of 2016 https://gov.gg/CHttpHandler.ashx?id=102958&p=0  and Resolutions of 17th June, 2016 https://gov.gg/CHttpHandler.ashx?id=102996&p=0

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