In 1964, Harold Wilson said the now famous and well-used phrase – “a week is a long time in politics”. This week has been so long it has broken all records with the number of political events of magnitude – obviously it started with BREXIT, then David Cameron’s resignation, followed by Scotland’s claim that they could stop the Exit, then the petition for a new referendum, the call for Jeremy Corbyn’s resignation and finally (for now) Boris’ shock announcement he will not enter the race to be the next UK’s prime minister.
So that was the UK’s week what about Guernsey you say? Well obviously BREXIT was the talk of us politicians as was our 2015 Budget and the latest Education survey. Personally, my highlight was my maiden speech.
As I tweeted later, I was so surprised that, having been involved in politics for 44 years, BREXIT would be the topic of such a speech. To set the scene, the debate we had was on the Policy Letter presented by the Policy & Resources Committee headed “Managing the Implications for Guernsey because of the UK’s Changing Relationship with the EU” and can be found here :- https://www.gov.gg/CHttpHandler.ashx?id=102958&p=0
For those of you who may be interested, my speech is below.
“Sir, I am a glass half full person and, as such, I decided to take up the challenge laid down by my neighbour, Deputy Kuttlewascher, yesterday when he asked us to come up with the opportunities which BREXIT posed. I also respond to Deputy Roffey’s pessimism.
Having read the Policy Letter, read blogs and articles and spoken to many people since Friday morning, I thought I would list these opportunities in this debate as I believe a positive attitude in the negotiations would benefit the Bailiwick.
The Policy Letter quite rightly repeats the IMF’s recommendation to support stability, limit uncertainty and maintain confidence – but should this Assembly take such a restrained approach? Can’t we be more optimistic? Whilst trawling the internet, I saw that a commentator had said he thought this was much more of a political crisis than an economic one and I agree especially when looking at the reaction of the markets overall. So I say let’s take advantage of this political crisis by being at the table talking about our Islands and what we have to offer.
So what are the opportunities? The policy letter talks about how we can push to join the World Trade Organisation. I would have liked to have given more detail for Deputy Richard Graham on this topic but, unfortunately, I am not as good a researcher as Deputy Yerby. This membership is, however, something for which the Commercial Group, representing the finance and business services industry, has been campaigning for years. It would bring many benefits in relation to intellectual property products and any opportunity we get to promote our intellectual property office, our image rights register, our aircraft registry and e-gambling in Alderney we should take with open arms. I also hear Captive Insurers are doing well in China.
We have also gone through the process to confirm our equivalence under the EU’s Alternative Investment Fund Managers’ Directive or AIFMD. That was a very well run exercise taken on by the Investment Division of our regulator at the GFSC and set the bar for how to negotiate for our businesses to trade in the EU.
The GDPR (sorry more acronyms) or the EU General Data Protection Regulation is coming soon and, whilst it is more regulation, it offers a great opportunity, if businesses here are up for it, and, as Deputy St Pier said earlier, we can promote ourselves as a safe haven for data. BREXIT can focus the attention on what we can offer because we will be there at the table talking about our relationship with the EU as well as the UK.
Earlier this year the Single European Payments Area Ordinance came into force which implements those provisions of EU/EEA legislation necessary to enable Guernsey to meet the requirements for third country participation in the Single Euro Payments Area.
These are examples of how as a third country we can work with the EU and they with us. Our Channel Islands Brussels Office have been invaluable in enhancing that relationship and puts us in a great place to continue the work already begun.
You will also have heard that a leading venture capitalist believes that Guernsey could benefit from BREXIT provided we have a flexible regulatory approach which allows our businesses to benefit from the opening up of markets elsewhere. The Director General of Guernsey’s regulator also confirmed it has been hard for us to sell retail financial services in the UK but there was a good possibility for trade barriers between the UK and Guernsey to come down which would be positive for Guernsey.
I am also receiving upbeat messages about the UK outlook especially because of the strong shape of its domestic economy and comparing to what occurred in 1992 when the UK made its exit from the EU’s Exchange Rate Mechanism (or ERM).
And despite the comments in the Policy Letter about the potential worry for fishermen, I am reliably informed they are generally optimistic. Deputy Paint advises me that one possible benefit is for them not to have to conform to European fishing policy one example of which is the catching or not of undulate Rays.
Personally I think one opportunity shouts out louder than others from the melée. It is quite clear we will be working with other nations affected by this seismic change. Working together over BREXIT will enhance those relationships. Having spent an enjoyable day last Friday playing cricket and getting to know the members of Jersey’s Parliament, it became abundantly clear to me that we could benefit greatly from working together more often and not just in these negotiations. I was pleased to hear Deputy Soulsby’s speech mentioning this joined up approach this morning. Working together with others more often may, dare I say it Sir, even turn out to be the lasting legacy from BREXIT.
Having provided some examples of the opportunities out there to our doubting Deputies, I would also like to suggest an addition by including a positive element to the propositions set out in paragraph 11.1 of the Policy letter. As well as setting out the aims which P&R should have in leading the negotiations, I would like to add a further aim and that is, during those negotiations, please be alive to the opportunities for these Islands.”