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Justice Committee calls for official representation for the Crown Dependencies in UK’s international trade negotiations

28 March 2024

The Crown Dependencies should be represented during international trade negotiations by specifically designated officials, either from the UK Government or the Crown Dependencies following a “disappointing outcome” in the CPTPP talks, the Justice Committee has warned.

In a report entitled: ‘The Constitutional Relationship with the Crown Dependencies’, the cross-party committee of MPs cited “concerns” over the Crown Dependencies’ experiences of the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP) negotiations.

It said: “All three Crown Dependencies had quite serious concerns about the Department for Business and Trade's approach to bringing them into CPTPP, and other FTA negotiations.

“They told us there were “challenges in real-time communication throughout”, engagement had “fallen short of our expectations” and issues that arose “could have been ameliorated by more effective consultation / communication”.

“The outcome of the negotiations—inclusion in the CPTPP for trade in goods from the outset, but not for services—was not the one that the Crown Dependencies, whose economies are service industry based, had hoped for.”

The CPTPP negotiation process, the report concluded, “provides lessons for how the Crown Dependencies could be more effectively involved in negotiations in the future”.

It added: “The UK Government’s aim for all future trade agreements should be for the Crown Dependencies to be covered by services, as well as goods chapters, from the outset. Where this does not prove possible, extension mechanisms should routinely be sought.”

Chair's comment

The Chair of the Justice Committee, Sir Bob Neill MP (Con, Bromley & Chislehurst), said:

“Representation of the interests of the Crown Dependencies in international relations is not optional, according to whether or not their interests are in line with those of the UK: it is the UK Government’s duty.

In cases of conflict, the Ministry of Justice must endeavour to find a mechanism for representation which will faithfully present and serve the interests of both parties. Having the Crown Dependencies represented during negotiations by specifically designated officials, would go some way towards addressing this issue.”

The report recommended that for future trade agreement negotiations the Crown Dependencies, Ministry of Justice and Department for Business and Trade should work together to identify a set of principles to guide effective engagement during the negotiation process.

They should include early and comprehensive engagement from the outset to conclusion; early sight of relevant documents; real time updates; and reasonable timeframes for provision of responses and information. During particularly time-pressured periods, the Committee report recommended that there should be officials in the room acting as a conduit for information to and from the Crown Dependencies in real time.

The report also criticised the UK Government’s inclusion of a Permissive Extent Clause (PEC) in the Fisheries Bill, describing it as “extremely regrettable and contrary to the constitutional relationship”.

It added: “We do not agree with the Government's assertion that it was a “legitimate act” and “soundly within the constitutional relationship” but rather consider it to have been a serious interference in long-established constitutional principles for short-term political reasons. We expect that the usual approach—mandated in the Ministry of Justice’s own guidance—of consultation and consent with regards to all future PECs will now prevail.”

The report also noted the concerns raised in the evidence about the extent of the Home Office’s consultation with the Government of Guernsey on the Illegal Migration Bill, now enacted.

It called on the Ministry of Justice’s Crown Dependency team to initiate a dialogue as soon as possible between the relevant officials in the Home Office and the Government of Guernsey so that concerns can be discussed and addressed for the future.

Chair's comment

The Chair of the Justice Committee, Sir Bob Neill MP (Con, Bromley & Chislehurst), added:

“We wish to emphasise that the UK's taking on of responsibility for its own international trade policy affords a real and very significant opportunity to make the most of the economic relationship with the Crown Dependencies. They are valuable members of the British family and their important cultural and economic contributions deserve greater recognition.

We recommend that the Department for Business and Trade formally assesses their contribution to the UK’s offer in trade negotiations and how their economic role can be better and more strategically promoted to potential trading partners, including the possibility of including them in the strategic approaches to free trade agreements that it publishes.”

The Crown Dependencies are the Bailiwick of Jersey, the Bailiwick of Guernsey and the Isle of Man. They are self-governing entities with their own directly-elected legislative assemblies, legal, administrative and fiscal systems.

They are not part of the United Kingdom but have a unique historical and constitutional relationship with the Crown, with King Charles III as their Head of State. The UK Government is responsible for the defence and international relations of the islands, while the Crown, acting through the Privy Council, is ultimately responsible for ensuring their “good government”.

The Ministry of Justice is the UK Government department responsible for managing the UK’s constitutional relationship with the Crown Dependencies and its performance in so doing falls within the remit of the Justice Committee. The report found that "there is a very positive working relationship between the Crown Dependencies and the Ministry of Justice".

Further information

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