Guernsey Press

‘Island should consider looking at independence’

LAUNCHING an exercise to consider Guernsey independence would send a ‘powerful message’ to the UK amid a democratic wrangle, according to ex-Commerce & Employment minister Kevin Stewart.

Former Commerce & Employment minister Kevin Stewart, left, and President of Policy & Resources Gavin St Pier.(24063872)

The question of Guernsey’s relationship with the UK has been thrown into sharp relief this week.

It comes amid claims that MPs risk breaking constitutional conventions by legislating for the Crown Dependencies by forcing domestic laws on the islands without their consent.

‘I think a desktop exercise and saying that we are looking at what our options are would send a very powerful message to the UK,’ Mr Stewart said.

‘For many years we had the benefit of protocol 3 under the EU, which enabled us to have free travel in Europe.

‘We’ve lost all that now and I really question – if we [were] still loyal to the Crown but totally independent – what the advantages could be, because frankly I can’t see a huge amount of downside.’

The UK was undermining Guernsey’s competence despite being a mature democracy for many years.

‘It’s very damaging to us and I think we should look at what independence could look like, what it would involve constitutionally and what will be the upsides and downsides.

‘In all seriousness we have to protect our economy, we have to protect all the work that we put into our finance industry.’

Speaking from his experience as a minister and dealing a lot with the UK and UK MPs, he said Guernsey gets bullied by a majority of MPs.

He added that the situation will not go away, it is just postponed, and the people who are aggressive to Guernsey outweigh our political friends.

He said without finance there is no economy and threats do not get much bigger than the situation currently.

‘I’m not suggesting a charge across the channel, I’m suggesting a straightforward what could independence look like,’ he said.

‘What could the costs be, what could the positives be, how does it affect individuals, upsides, downsides, what else could we develop if we were independent could be explored.

‘Just being independent does not mean you cut all ties, what it means is you become independent and negotiate certain things that need negotiating. It does not mean falling out with the UK.

‘I think it would just be another stage in Guernsey’s development.

‘We balance our economy, we’re fiscally independent anyway and we pay for our NHS services that we use, we pay for our university places now, we print our own stamps and money, we are all but for a few technicalities independent anyway.’

When asked if more could be done by Guernsey representatives to demand more respect, he said no.

‘They won’t take a blind bit of notice. You’ll never get that high, you’ll never get to meet the people that actually matter.

‘And if you can’t meet them you can’t negotiate, so them sitting on their hands hurts us, they’re not interested in us.’

Policy & Resources member with responsibility for external affairs Jonathan Le Tocq has spoken in favour of a confederation of the Channel Islands.

A conference hosted by the Jersey and Guernsey Law Review in 2012 suggested this could see the Bailiwick and Jersey remain as separate states but co-ordinate certain laws, courts, and institutions.

On Twitter, Deputy Jonathan Le Tocq said: ‘We’ve been here before. Irrespective of current issues I’ve been in favour of a Confederation des Iles Anglo-Normandes for a long while, despite being in a minority on this issue.

‘Future-proofing our interests globally involves recognising we have more in common that separates us.’