Lords letter poses question of ‘Why now?’

IT IS both comforting and worrying that the House of Lords European Union Committee should write to Michael Gove on behalf of the Crown Dependencies.

Comforting in that in these uncertain times it is good to have friends in high places.

Without any official representation in Parliament, the islands must rely on gaining the ear and understanding of ministers, peers and senior civil servants.

To win the attention of the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster at this tricky moment in the UK’s history takes someone with a loud knock.

However, it is worrying that the letter needed to be written in the first place.

At the height of Brexit negotiations, Lords committee chairman Lord Kinnoull believes it is wise to remind the Government of its responsibilities.

The concern in the islands has to be that this means the word in the corridors of Westminster is that the Government is weighing up its options and the Dependencies’ interests are under threat.

Given the recent decision by the Government to ride roughshod over Guernsey and Jersey’s objections to the permissive extent clause on fisheries it would be foolish to dismiss the letter as an innocuous formality.

The 16th Earl of Kinnoull’s letter is also concerning because of the breadth of the issues it identifies as needing care and attention.

Islanders have long known, for example, that there are Brexit concerns over the islands’ trade in goods with the EU, such as fisheries, agriculture and manufacturing.

Less familiar is talk of data protection co-operation and transport and communication links.

Add that to issues around financial services, equivalence, energy cooperation and the ability of EU citizens to live and work in the Dependencies and the perspective of the battlefield suddenly widens.

The UK Government has two weeks to reply to the Lords’ letter. By the time it does the deal will either have been struck or it is no deal. The islands must hope they have listened.

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