Skip to main content

Crown Dependencies

Volume 783: debated on Wednesday 19 July 2017


Asked by

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what discussions Ministers have had with the Governments of the Crown Dependencies since the 2017 general election about the negotiations for the United Kingdom’s withdrawal from the European Union.

My Lords, I beg leave to ask the Question standing in my name on the Order Paper, and I draw attention to my entry in the register.

My Lords, my honourable friend Mr Robin Walker, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State at the Department for Exiting the EU, has spoken with the Chief Ministers of Jersey, Guernsey and the Isle of Man following the 2017 general election as part of his regular engagement with the Crown dependencies on EU exit. We remain absolutely committed to engaging with the Crown dependencies fully in our work to ensure that their priorities and interests are understood.

My Lords, I welcome the consultations that have taken place so far but they have yet to be tested under the pressure of negotiations. Does the noble Baroness recognise that access to the single market and customs union for agriculture, fish products and manufacturing under protocol 3 are important to the Channel Islands and the Isle of Man and that a bad deal or no deal on trade would not only be disastrous for the UK but bad for the dependencies as well? Does she realise that, at the moment, they cannot all revert to WTO rules because Jersey, in particular, is having great difficulty in getting the application of WTO membership to it?

As I indicated to the noble Lord, the UK Government are engaged in close discussions with the Crown dependencies. There are formal quarterly meetings, specifically with the Chief Ministers of Jersey, Guernsey and the Isle of Man, attended, as I said, by the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State. A series of technical round tables has been organised with the Crown dependencies. The issue which the noble Lord raises is one of many of significance to the Crown dependencies, and these technical issues indeed include the area of agriculture and fisheries, where issues are being identified and this close pattern of engagement is being pursued. The Crown dependencies have been very positive about that level of engagement.

My Lords, can the Minister perhaps say something about substance rather than procedure? What status in trade are the Government hoping to negotiate in Brussels on behalf of the Crown dependencies? Presumably they are not allowed to negotiate directly themselves. What status will that be? Will it be remaining in the customs union, remaining in the single market, none of the above and something I have not yet thought of, or what?

Well, we shall have to see. I am sure that the objectives of these close engagements and good discussions are precisely the kinds of issues to which the noble Lord refers and are very much to the forefront of the minds of the Minister and the Crown dependencies. That will of course form part of our overall approach to the negotiations.

My Lords, will the noble Baroness turn her mind to the position of the overseas territories, representatives of all of which I met yesterday morning? They are deeply concerned about their position if we exit the European Union, as some of them currently get up to 60% of their revenue budget from the EU. Can the noble Baroness give a guarantee that, if we exit the European Union, that will be made up by Her Majesty’s Government?

He raises a substantive issue which is somewhat wide of the original Question, but that is not in any way to diminish the importance of the overseas territories, prominent among which is Gibraltar. These close discussions continue and the interests of the overseas territories are very much in the minds of the negotiators.

My Lords, the Minister will know that the Channel Islands never joined the Common Market and are not members of the EU. Therefore, their position very much depends on the arrangements that they enter into with us and, in particular, their position in the queue to be able to market their financial services in the EU under the new equivalence regime.

I thank my noble friend for that question. Financial services are indeed a key interest of the Crown dependencies, particularly given that sector’s contribution to their economies. The Crown dependencies are lobbying to ensure that these interests are recognised and are part of the EU exit engagement programme.

My Lords, the Crown dependencies—particularly the Isle of Man, Guernsey and Jersey—have a considerable stake in the hospitality and tourism industries, and it may well be that several of your Lordships will sojourn there in the next few weeks. People working in those places may be concerned about their future employment if they have come from other parts of Europe to work in hospitality and tourism. What comfort can the noble Baroness give to such people that can perhaps be passed on during the summer?

I thank the noble Lord for his question. The issue that he raises is, again, very important and is very much at the forefront of the discussions to which I have referred. The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, who is leading this engagement, is having regular meetings. I understand that the discussions have been very constructive and have been well received by the Chief Ministers of the Crown dependencies. I am sure that the Chief Ministers are advancing the very sorts of issues to which the noble Lord refers.

Oh, I bring order to chaos! My Lords, the EU Committee has published a report on Brexit and the Crown dependencies, along with many other excellent reports, and we are still awaiting government responses to them. I am tabling lots of very serious Questions to try to get the best out of Brexit. Despite what the former Leader of the House says in HuffPost this morning, we are trying to get information. Therefore, can the Minister try to get government responses not just to these reports but to the Written Questions? Those of us who are trying to move forward seriously on this need that information.

I thank the noble Baroness for raising an important issue. I am aware of the excellent work done by the committees. Interestingly, the reports of both the EU Committee and the Justice Sub-Committee were positive about the Government’s engagement with the Crown dependencies. I am certain that the noble Baroness’s plea is noted. I think that there is a desire to impart more specific information as soon as we are able to do so.