The UK’s Lord Chancellor has responded to the President of the Policy & Resources Committee and provided reassurances on a number of current issues, including the Bailiwick’s part in the UK-EU future relationship and the Bailiwick’s domestic autonomy, and acknowledged work to strengthen Guernsey’s international identity and constitutional resilience.
In September, the Policy & Resources Committee identified concerns with the UK’s Internal Market Billi which could impact the Bailiwick and UK-EU relationship negotiations. The Policy & Resources Committee raised those concerns with the Lord Chancellor and sought to remind him of the importance to the Bailiwick of the ancient and historic constitutional relationship with the Crown.
The Lord Chancellor acknowledged that relationship and has reiterated that the UK Government remains committed to protecting the Bailiwick’s domestic autonomy. In his letter the Lord Chancellor said: “I can assure you of the UK Government’s support for the longstanding constitutional position that the UK Parliament should not legislate for the Crown Dependencies on domestic matters without the Crown Dependencies’ consent.”
The Lord Chancellor’s response comes at an important stage in the EU negotiations. Its receipt also coincides with the UK Government’s decision to insert a Permissive Extent Clause in respect of the Bailiwick in the UK’s Fisheries Bill; which cannot be used to legislate for the islands without consent.
The Committee is also taking steps to strengthen Guernsey’s constitutional resilience. One of those work streams is pursuing a change to Royal Assent for the Bailiwick’s legislation so that, generally, approval for legislation will take place in the islands. Work is underway to present proposals on that to the States of Deliberation following Resolutions on the Constitutional Investigation Committee’s report in 2016.
Deputy Gavin St. Pier, President of the Policy & Resources Committee, said: “I raised various concerns directly with the Lord Chancellor and have now received strong and helpful reassurances from him. That includes the UK’s understanding of the specific circumstances of the Bailiwick and acknowledgement that the Bailiwick’s proposed involvement in the UK-EU future relationship agreement would be a matter for consideration by the Bailiwick’s legislatures after negotiations have concluded.
“One of the important aspects of my Committee’s work in recent years has been to defend against various threats to Guernsey’s autonomy, from wherever they may come, and to strengthen Guernsey’s constitutional resilience wherever possible.”