Constitutional clouds gather on the horizon

OUTSIDE forces dominated yesterday’s States meeting.

Whether it was the constitutional issues surrounding the UK’s fisheries bill, the Brexit trade deal or changes to immigration rules, the islands were looking offshore to see which way the wind was blowing.

This storm has been four years in the making, since the EU referendum, and it is still not clear whether it will be a full-blown hurricane.

All the islands can do at present is make sure everything is battened down.

The offending clause in the fisheries bill might come to nothing if the UK does a deal with the EU with which the islands can live.

Likewise, the effect of the new points-based immigration rules is yet to be clear. The islands must push hard for the ability both to exist within the common travel area and employ the guest workers it needs.

If the storm picks up, the islands must be clear where it will hold its ground. There can be no collecting of taxes, indirect or not, on behalf of the EU, for example.

Nor would it be acceptable to be continually left out of wider trade deals or for island businesses to find their supply of staff cut off.

Of paramount importance is the status of the three islands’ elected Assemblies as the last arbiter in determining their own futures.

Policy & Resources is rightly exploring ways to strengthen this position. The Privy Council system cannot be used to frustrate the islands’ wishes through delays and bureaucracy.

A more direct system for giving Royal Sanction to domestic laws, involving the Lt-Governor as the Queen’s representative, has been suggested.

This would go some way to strengthening the island’s autonomy in the eyes of UK ministers and MPs who, of late, have seemed careless of the distinction between a Crown Dependency and an Overseas Territory.

The more ways that the UK and other jurisdictions can be reminded of the independence of our legislative Assembly, administrative, fiscal and legal systems, the better.

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