Yesterday morning the UK Government announced that it will be publishing a series of technical notices on Brexit-related matters during August and September 2018. These notices will set out information to allow UK businesses and citizens to understand what they would need to do in a ‘no deal’ scenario, so they can make informed plans and preparations.
Whilst Jersey’s position differs from that of the UK, in that we have a limited relationship with the European Union as set out under Protocol 3 to the UK’s Treaty of Accession, there are certain areas where the Island will be impacted.
The UK Government has said that a scenario in which the UK leaves the EU without agreement (a ‘no deal’ scenario) remains unlikely given the mutual interests of the UK and the EU in securing a negotiated outcome.
Nonetheless, in line with the UK, it is our duty as a responsible government to prepare for all eventualities, including ‘no deal’, until we can be certain of the outcome of those negotiations.
To this end the Government of Jersey’s Brexit planning has been developed on the basis of a ‘no deal’ or ‘hard Brexit’ scenario, since the UK referendum on EU membership took place in June 2016. We are aware of the potential risks to the Island presented by a hard Brexit and have engaged in contingency planning to ensure that all Government Departments are prepared for and able to manage those risks.
We will be publishing the Government of Jersey’s initial position in relation to the relevant areas covered by each of the technical notices on a dedicated page in the Brexit section of the government website. Please see www.gov.je/brexit
More detailed responses will be published in the coming weeks, when the technical notices have been considered in full by the relevant government departments and as detailed discussions with the UK and EU progress. This will be accompanied by public and industry engagement, to ensure that the preparations we are undertaking for Brexit are well understood, and that businesses and individuals know what steps they may need to take in particular in relation to a no-deal scenario.
What is meant by a ‘no deal’ scenario?
Until both the UK Government and the European Union sign the Withdrawal Agreement and it is ratified by the UK Parliament and the European Parliament, there remains a possibility that the UK may leave the EU without a deal in March 2019.
The UK triggered Article 50 of the Treaty of the European Union on 29 March 2017. As set out under that treaty, the UK has two years to negotiate a Withdrawal Agreement and framework for a future relationship with the EU before the point of the UK’s exit from the EU on 29 March 2019.
A ‘no deal’ scenario is one where the UK leaves the EU and becomes a third country at 11pm GMT on 29 March 2019 without a Withdrawal Agreement and framework for a future relationship.
Specifically, a ‘no deal’ outcome in March 2019 could occur if one of the following happens:
· The UK Government cannot reach a deal with the EU.
· The European Parliament rejects the deal and ratification by the EU is not therefore possible.
· The UK Parliament rejects the deal presented to it at the time of the Parliamentary vote, or resolves against it during the final scrutiny process provided for by the Constitutional reform and Governance Act 2010 (CRAG)
In the first and last of these circumstances the EU Withdrawal Act states that the government will lay a statement on its proposed next steps by 21 January 2019.
The Government of Jersey continues to believe that a negotiated outcome on withdrawal and a future relationship is in the interest of all parties and remains the most likely outcome. Nevertheless, from the outset we have planned on the basis of a hard Brexit.
In practice, this has meant that States departments, co-ordinated by the Brexit Unit in the Ministry of External Relations, have reviewed risks and contingencies on an ongoing basis. This informs both the ongoing contingency preparations of those departments and our discussions with departments across Whitehall. This preparation has also included our consideration of the extension of the UK’s WTO membership, in order to provide certainty on our terms of trade with both the EU and non-EU partners, and building the Global Markets team within External Relations to promote the Island’s economic relationships with non-EU markets.
In March of this year the previous States Assembly passed the European Union Repeal and Amendment (Jersey) Law 2018. This legislation, which was approved by the Privy Council in May, ensures that the Assembly has the ability to make necessary changes to the Island’s EU-related legislation either through Regulations or by delegating power to Ministers to make Orders. This guarantees that, even in the event of a hard Brexit, the Island can make prompt legislative changes, where necessary, to ensure the continued operability of our laws.
At the same time, we have recognised the importance of continuing to work closely with the UK government, both to prepare for withdrawal under a range of negotiated scenarios and to seek a positive outcome for our future relationship with the EU.
This has included quarterly ministerial meetings between the Ministerial representatives of the Crown Dependencies and Robin Walker MP, Minister at the Department for Exiting the European Union, as well as engagement at the British Irish Council and other political and diplomatic fora.
Our work in the established six Brexit workstreams continues through regular roundtable meetings with UK departments. We are in ongoing discussions with HMRC to formalise the Jersey-UK customs arrangements for the future, to ensure that we can guarantee the seamless flow of trade in goods, including essential supplies, between Jersey and the UK from Brexit Day.
Timetable and conclusion
The publication of UK technical notices is due to take place during August and September. As these are released, the Government of Jersey will provide initial responses, with more detailed responses following in course, setting out further details of how a ‘no deal’ scenario may operate in practice and actions that businesses and Islanders may need to consider.
Alongside the publication of these responses, we will continue to proactively engage Islanders through our ‘Let’s Talk Brexit’ campaign, and other specific campaigns that will focus on individual impacts of Brexit on Jersey.
Whilst preparations for a no deal scenario will continue, Islanders and businesses should be assured that this planning is taking place for reasons of expediency, based on an outcome that remains unlikely. Our ongoing engagement with the UK, coupled with our internal contingency planning, has placed Jersey in a strong position to manage the next stage of Brexit, whether that results in a negotiated or hard exit from the EU, and to take advantage of the opportunities that the future relationship proposals allow.