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States agree to "historic" UK-EU trade deal

States agree to

Monday 28 December 2020

States agree to "historic" UK-EU trade deal


The States of Guernsey has unanimously approved the terms of the UK's post-Brexit agreement, with many deputies saying it was the best outcome the Bailiwick could have hoped for, while others expressed deep reservations about being forced to make such a momentous decision at short-notice.

Chief Minister Peter Ferbrache emphasised that Policy & Resources and the External Relations Team had worked "clearly, decisively and robustly" to ensure that the deal protects the autonomy and interests of the Bailiwick, particularly with regards to finance and fishing industries.

With the possibility of a 'no-deal' Brexit seeming likely in recent weeks, deputies broadly felt that the agreement was good for the Bailiwick.

However, some discussed the potential negative impacts of the UK's departure from the EU. ESS President Peter Roffey felt that this was a historic occasion, but also a "deeply sad one".

"I agree that the choice we're being asked to make today is a simple one, and that the decision is a binary one, and the right answer is obvious," he said. 

Deputy Peter Roffey

Pictured: Deputy Peter Roffey felt that it was "outrageous" that the Bailiwick was given just two days to consider such a historic and impactful decision.

"Of course I know it's none of our business, but I am convinced that our much bigger cousins on the other side of the English Channel have made a tactical mistake of historic proportions, and that in 20 years' time they will look back on Brexit as an extraordinary act of self harm."

Similarly, Deputy David De Lisle felt that the agreement would close doors for generations to come.

"We are to lose rights in Europe: the opportunity to gain employment in Europe; it doesn't help young people, and I emphasise young people, in applying their professional skills more broadly," he said.

"For young people, it closes opportunity. We've lost the right to live, work and retire in Europe. P&R asks that the Bailiwick accepts the terms [of the agreement], but in all of that, P&R have a duty of care to inform the population of the negative and positive effects of it, and the future effects that this will have on the Bailiwick and its people."

In spite of these concerns, all deputies appeared to believe that, given the circumstances, it was the right choice for the Bailiwick to approve the agreement. HSC President Al Brouard was particularly pleased by the arrangements for Guernsey's fishing waters, which were a fraught topic throughout negotiations.

Deputy Sasha Kazantseva-Miller 

Pictured: Deputies Kazantseva-Miller and Lindsay De Sausmarez hoped that withdrawal from the EU would encourage the Bailiwick to pursue greater independence and sustainability in its energy production.

"I've always found it incredulous that our French cousins seem to think that they have a right to fish in our garden, and yet the return favour is non-existent," he said.

"The island is at last gaining control; we have now sovereignty over our waters, we have our territorial seas. My wish is to see our own 'EEZ' in due course."

President of Economic Development Neil Inder explained that Bailiwick fisheries would not lose any of their currently-held rights to fish in French waters or land their catches in France, nor would they be charged any tariffs for doing so; moreover, French access to the Bailiwick's waters has not been expanded.

"No industry speaks for the Bailiwick's heritage and culture like the fisheries," he said. "It may be a comparatively small sector in terms of economic output, but it is and will always remain an important part of our island's culture. Indeed, as we think about our economy post-Brexit, post-recovery, the blue economy is an area of opportunity for us."

Home Affairs President Rob Prow felt that Guernsey had "punched above its weight" to make its voice heard in an "arms-length negotiation" between the UK and the EU, and that "we can now look to our future with utmost certainty."

Guernsey_Brexit_eu-2.jpg

Pictured: The States of Guernsey has agreed to the UK-EU partnership agreement that will come into effect on 1 January, 2021.

In closing the debate, Chief Minister Peter Ferbrache said the Bailiwick would have had to make the most of whatever happened during the UK's negotiations.

"In terms of its size, Guernsey isn't even a paperweight," he said. "But in terms of its capability and its integrity, it is a super-heavyweight."

"We have to deal with the cards as they're given to us, we have to deal with the situation as it is. I genuinely believe that we will be entering a different world on the 1 January, and it's a world of great opportunity for the Bailiwick of Guernsey. We're going to go out and have a different relationship, a wider relationship, and we should grab it with both hands."

The vote was passed unanimously in a recorded vote, apart from three absentees; the two Alderney representatives, who are meeting with their own government to approve the agreement, and External Affairs lead Jonathan Le Tocq, who is still recovering after having been hospitalised earlier this month. 

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