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Guernsey hosts 30th British-Irish Council Summit

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Friday 22 June 2018

The British-Irish Council has re-emphasised the importance of constitutional relationships being respected, during the British-Irish Council Summit in Guernsey today.

Guernsey has hosted the 30th British-Irish Council Summit, the fourth time that the Summit has been held in Guernsey since the creation of the British-Irish Council as part of the 1998 Good Friday Agreement.

Guernsey's President of the Policy & Resources Committee, Deputy Gavin St Pier, and President of the Committee for the Environment & Infrastructure, Deputy Barry Brehaut, hosted the meetings at the Summit which focused on political developments within BIC Member Administrations, the United Kingdom's (UK) work towards its exit from the European Union (EU), and a discussion on marine environment initiatives and policies across these islands.

Deputy St Pier, President of the Policy & Resources Committee said:

"I was very pleased to host the 30th British-Irish Council Summit in Guernsey today. Since the decision of the UK in June 2016 to withdraw from the EU, I have seen at first-hand the significance of the BIC forum and the benefits that derive from it grow, particularly for Guernsey as a smaller jurisdiction. It provides an invaluable opportunity to enhance our engagement with representatives from across the UK and Ireland, and to continue to strengthen these relationships during the negotiation process between the UK and the EU, to ensure that Guernsey's interests continue to be heard and taken into account. 

"I took the opportunity to reiterate our constitutional position, namely that the UK cannot legislate for us without our consent and they have a responsibility to represent our interests internationally, even where they differ from their own.  I also emphasised that if the term 'British Family' is to have real meaning, this means treating us fairly and equally when it comes to such issues as student fees, NHS charging, access to Heathrow, bank ring-fencing and access to financial markets.  These inconsistencies have evolved over recent years and now is the time to resolve them.

"It is critical that we as a family of administrations in the British Isles respect the long-established and formal relationships that we share, including Guernsey's constitutional relationship with the UK. The reaffirmation of that by all administrations present today in the Summit's communique at our suggestion is a significant outcome from the summit

"I also welcome the sentiment set out in Robin Walker's letter in today's Guernsey Press, which sets out the Department for Exiting the EU's commitment to supporting Guernsey's interests through the Brexit negotiations including looking towards the future.  This work extends the areas of agreement in the negotiations, which cover the impact of the end of Protocol 3, as outlined in that letter.   This commitment supports the work that the Crown Dependencies are undertaking with the HM Treasury in relation to the finance sector, where we will remain a third country but will seek strengthen our trading links once the new framework of the economic relationship between the UK and EU is agreed."

David Lidington, Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster and Minister for the Cabinet Office, represented the UK Government along with the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland and the Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for the Department. The First Ministers of Scotland and Wales and An Taoiseach from the Irish Government were also in attendance. The Chief Ministers of Jersey and the Isle of Man represented the other two Crown Dependencies. 

Due to the ongoing political talks in relation to the power-sharing arrangements in Northern Ireland, there was no political representation present at the Summit. 

Member Administrations picked up from previous discussions at the Summit in Jersey in November 2017 on the implications of the referendum result and provided a further update to the Council on their activity in respect of the UK's exit from the EU, particularly with reference to the progress of negotiations between the UK and the EU and how the possible outcomes could have an impact on each of the Member Administrations and the relationships between them.

Political representatives with responsibility for marine environment policy met in advance of the Summit meeting and discussed matters including marine litter, biosecurity, invasive non-native marine species and ocean acidification. Ministers noted that all of these matters were of importance to the member administrations.

Deputy St Pier, said:

"As the UK moves closer towards the date of its exit from the EU there continue to be a wide range of issues that will have an impact on our relationship with the both the UK and the EU. The BIC forum has become vital for Guernsey to express its interests and its concerns at the highest level in relation to the UK's exit of the EU, and also to gain its intelligence about what is happening elsewhere that may also affect the island. I was also pleased that the BIC forum agreed that it needs to continue evolving as the political relationships between its member administrations change, and I am certain that it will continue to be an invaluable forum for Guernsey to be a part of."

Deputy Barry Brehaut, President of the Committee for the Environment & Infrastructure, said:

"It was a pleasure to be able to host Environment Ministers from across the BIC administrations here in Guernsey. This is the second time I have chaired such a meeting in Guernsey as part of the British-Irish Council and once again it has been a useful and productive meeting.

"As island nations, the marine environment is of paramount importance to all of the BIC member administrations. The issue of marine litter, and plastics in particular, is a real threat to our seas and is something that we must all work together on to tackle. Guernsey has some real innovations in this area, including the 'Trash Tracker' app that is being developed by bursary students with the support of C5 Alliance, and there are a number of dedicated groups working to improve our local marine environment, including the various beach cleans organised by La Société Guernesiaise. The focus of BIC administrations on this very real problem will enable us to share our experiences of this issue and will be invaluable in helping us to tackle the issue of marine litter."

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