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Crown Dependencies 'should be involved' in UK trade talks

Jersey, Guernsey and the Isle of Man should have a seat at the negotiating table when the UK discusses trade deals, according to a group of cross-party MPs.

The Justice Select Committee says the Crown Dependencies should have officials present, rather than UK Ministers acting on their behalf.

Since Brexit, British ministers have been responsible for negotiating trade policies on behalf of Jersey, Guernsey and the Isle of Man.

The Justice Committee says the islands should be represented during international trade negotiations by specifically designated officials, either from the UK Government or the Crown Dependencies.

Its report, ‘The Constitutional Relationship with the Crown Dependencies’, cites concerns over the islands’ experiences of the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP) negotiations.

“They told us there were “challenges in real-time communication throughout”, engagement had “fallen short of our expectations” and issues that arose “could have been ameliorated by more effective consultation / communication.

“The outcome of the negotiations—inclusion in the CPTPP for trade in goods from the outset, but not for services—was not the one that the Crown Dependencies, whose economies are service industry based, had hoped for.”

 Credit: UK Parliament

The Chair of the Justice Committee, Sir Bob Neill MP (Con, Bromley & Chislehurst), said:

“Representation of the interests of the Crown Dependencies in international relations is not optional, according to whether or not their interests are in line with those of the UK: it is the UK Government’s duty.

In cases of conflict, the Ministry of Justice must endeavour to find a mechanism for representation which will faithfully present and serve the interests of both parties. Having the Crown Dependencies represented during negotiations by specifically designated officials, would go some way towards addressing this issue.”

Guernsey's External Relations lead, Deputy Jonathan Le Tocq, who gave evidence to the Justice Committee, has welcomed its conclusions:

“We are pleased to see that the final report from the Justice Committee recognises some of the concerns that had been raised in Guernsey’s evidence, and discussed during last year’s visit of the Committee.

"We welcome the recommendations, in particular relating to aspects of negotiations for and participation in free trade agreements and the need for the UK to ensure that it is acting in accordance with established and historic constitutional convention when representing the interests of the Crown Dependencies, even where those interests differ from the UK’s interests. 

We are pleased that the report also continues to recognise Guernsey’s developing international identity.  These recommendations will be considered carefully by the UK Government and we look forward to continuing to work closely with the Ministry of Justice, and other UK Government departments, to strengthen the existing constitutional relationship and support the ongoing negotiations on UK Free Trade Agreements to secure participation that meets the needs of Guernsey’s economy.”

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