Chief minister airs concern over UK’s new Brexit policy

GUERNSEY’S chief minister has weighed in on the row over whether the UK’s controversial new Brexit policy will break international law, highlighting that there could be a knock-on effect to the Bailiwick’s reputation.

The UK’s senior law officer, Lord Keen, who is also the UK minister with responsibility for the Crown Dependencies, has quit over the dispute to override parts of the withdrawal agreement. (28704828)
The UK’s senior law officer, Lord Keen, who is also the UK minister with responsibility for the Crown Dependencies, has quit over the dispute to override parts of the withdrawal agreement. (28704828)

Deputy Gavin St Pier is worried that the constitutional stand-off between the UK and the EU will also have an impact on the Bailiwick.

‘I share the concerns that have been raised within the UK, EU and further afield, about the potential impacts of the Internal Market Bill which is currently making its way through the UK’s parliament.

‘The legislation and policy objectives are matters for the UK Government, but the threat of the abrogation by the UK of an international treaty obligation is of concern.

‘Any damage to the UK’s international reputation will be felt by the whole of the British family, including the Bailiwick. ‘We will continue to develop our own international identity under the 2008 international identity framework and guard closely against anything which might diminish our reputation as a good neighbour and responsible player on the international field.’

The UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson wants to tear up aspects of the Brexit withdrawal agreement which was agreed with the EU last year.

Critics argue that the move questions the integrity of the nation in a shameful and embarrassing way, and undermines the UK’s credibility in future trade deals and could prompt a damaging retaliation from the EU.

It has also been pointed out that international treaty obligations are just as important as domestic law.

In a carefully-worded statement, Deputy St Pier sounded a note of caution about what precedent was being set.

‘In addition to the general reputational issues, the UK Government’s introduction of that bill may also adversely affect the UK-EU future relationship negotiations at a critical stage and the UK’s negotiations with other nations.

‘Guernsey, and the wider Bailiwick, continues to prepare for all possible outcomes of the negotiations between the UK and EU in advance of the end of the transition period on 31 December 2020.

‘The unconventional threat by the UK to abrogate a treaty obligation is also unwelcome, given that our constitutional relationship with the Crown rests on respect for similar conventions.’

The UK’s senior law officer, Lord Keen, who is also the UK minister with responsibility for the Crown Dependencies, has quit over the dispute to override parts of the withdrawal agreement.

In his resignation letter he said he found it increasingly difficult to reconcile his obligations as a law officer with the policy intentions of the contentious Internal Markets Bill.

Deputy St Pier has written to Lord Keen to thank him for his support to the islands, and express regret at his departure.

He said their strong working relationship had been important.

‘We were extremely fortunate that his background as a lawyer meant he immediately had a clear understanding of our constitutional relationship with the Crown and that he took the UK’s responsibilities to us very seriously.

‘During his time in that post, Lord Keen has taken a close interest in Bailiwick matters, including offering valued support during both the UK’s Brexit process and the Covid-19 pandemic, both of which are ongoing.

‘Of course, Guernsey’s government will continue to work closely with the UK Government and Lord Keen’s successor going forward.’

Top Stories

More From The Guernsey Press

UK & International News