Guernsey Press

UK does not want Crown Dependencies at talks

HAVING representatives of the Crown Dependencies present during UK negotiations on international agreements could make things ‘tricky’, a Justice Select Committee hearing has been told.

Greg Hands, Minister of State at the Department for Business and Trade adresses the Justice Select Committee. (32729102)

This was the latest in a series of meetings looking into the constitutional relationship of the UK with the CDs.

The issue of representation was raised in May, when Guernsey’s external relations lead Deputy Jonathan Le Tocq told the panel that it would have been helpful to the CDs to have someone present at meetings.

He referred to two cases, one involving the UK’s joining of the Comprehensive and Progressive Trans-Pacific Partnership and the other the new illegal migration bill.

In the first instance there was a problem with the CD’s concerns not being passed on and in the second, changes affecting the CDs were made to the agreement, without them being aware until afterwards.

But at the latest hearing, where there were no island representatives present, Greg Hands, Minister of State at the Department for Business and Trade, confirmed that the UK had formal responsibility to represent the three CDs.

‘I think both the CDs and ourselves are satisfied at how that works,’ he said.

It was put to him that the CDs on occasions were given only 48 hours to feedback on relevant aspects of the negotiations and perhaps this could be improved.

Mr Hands said that in his experience of international trade negotiations they operated in a ‘corridor’ of what was deliverable and negotiable. Adding in additional layers of complexity was not always in the interests of the CDs or the UK, or of reaching a deal.

DoBT director for core policy, delivery and European region Dr Gaynor Jeffery said that the pace of negotiations as they reached the end point could make it ‘very tricky’ to have representatives of the islands in the room.

But the aim was to provide an immediate briefing when necessary.

‘I don’t think they lose much in terms of hours by not being in the room,’ she said.

Where possible, they would be given a lot more than 48 hours in which to respond.

Among the other witnesses at the hearing were Mike Freer, the minister for Courts and Legal Services at the Ministry of Justice and Richard Mason, the MOJ's deputy director for constitutional policy.

The panel asked about staffing levels at the MOJ, which was an issue that the CDs had raised at the last hearing, and Mr Freer said that an additional member of staff was being recruited.