First ever joint visit to Brussels by the Chief Ministers of Guernsey and Jersey

The Chief Minister of Jersey, Senator Ian Gorst, and the Chief Minister of Guernsey, Deputy Peter Harwood, paid the first ever joint visit to Brussels at Chief Minister level on 7-9 January 2014. The Chief Ministers’ programme included meetings with:
  • senior political advisers to EU Commission President Barroso and to EU Tax Commissioner Semeta;
  • the Director General of the Commission’s Internal Market and Services division (DG MARKT) ;
  • Members of the European Parliament’s Economic and Monetary Affairs (ECON) and Internal Market and Consumer Protection (IMCO) Committees;
  • the German and Irish Permanent Representatives (Ambassadors) to the EU
  • the Swiss Ambassador to the EU;
  • the head of the Centre for European Policy Studies (a leading think tank);

Speaking before the visit Senator Gorst said:

The success of the Brussels office has been an example of joint working between our two islands at its best. I am therefore very pleased to be attending these meetings alongside Peter. It is important that the Channel Islands are recognised as positive contributors to the EU economy, and that key decision makers in Brussels are kept informed of our continuing support for international transparency and cooperation in tax matters. There are opportunities for Island businesses to benefit from and contribute to the European economy, and it is through direct engagement in Brussels that we have the best chance of ensuring that both the Channel Islands and Europe can continue to benefit from this relationship.”

Deputy Harwood also commented before the visit:

I am delighted that Ian and I are undertaking this important set of meetings together. Many of the decisions made in Brussels impact significantly on us, directly or indirectly. For that reason it is vital that those who make decisions and those who influence decisions have as full an understanding of the Channel Islands as possible. Our message will be simple. We are good, responsible and co-operative neighbours, and want to ensure that our working relationship with the EU reflects that. We have an important part to play in supporting the European growth and economic stability agendas – but to do that, we need to ensure fair access to the EU market place for our businesses.”

On 8 January the Channel Islands Brussels Office hosted a reception on the occasion of the Chief Ministers’ visit at which the Chief Ministers each gave a short address as follows:

Deputy Harwood

Your Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen, it is a great pleasure for both of us to be here in Brussels, and a particular pleasure to meet all of you this evening. Thank you all very much for coming.

Many of the decisions made in this city impact significantly on us, directly or indirectly. That is why we decided to establish the joint government office, which opened nearly three years ago. All of you here tonight are friends and contacts of the Brussels office.  We would like to thank you for the advice, engagement and support which you have given to our team here.

In a moment Senator Gorst will make some remarks on the contribution of the Channel Islands to the European economy in terms of growth and stability. First I would like to make some remarks on our broad and deep relationship with the EU. However to do so, it is perhaps sensible to start with our relationship to the UK.

Jersey and Guernsey are British Crown Dependencies, but we are actually not dependent on the British Crown for anything except our defence.  We have been self-governing territories, with our own fiscal and legal systems, for over 800 years. 

We are not part of the United Kingdom, but our legal relationship with the EU derives from the UK’s Accession Treaty.

We are part of the EU only for a limited range of the acquis – essentially trade in goods, and the customs union. For most things we are “third countries” to use the technical term, or “neighbours” to use a friendlier term. We are outside the EU but we are geographically, economically and culturally part of the wider European family.

Our duty and objective, like that of all European governments, is to promote sustainable economic growth and to provide a safe, secure environment for our citizens based on the rule of law. In today’s globalised world, no government can achieve that acting in isolation. The EU, as our nearest and biggest neighbour, is a crucial relationship for us to be able to deliver on many of our policy objectives.

For example, being assessed, as third countries, as meeting EU data protection standards is vital for the functioning of our economies, as is ensuring that our airports meet EU security standards.  Our competition legislation is modelled on EU competition law, which is widely recognised as setting the global standard.

And it is a two-way relationship, as it should be between good neighbours. For example, our law enforcement and judicial authorities are engaged in active cooperation with their counterparts in individual member States, as well as with EU bodies, and we have chosen to diligently implement EU sanctions, in support of wider EU foreign policy objectives.

But it is the two way nature of the economic relationship that Senator Gorst will focus on.

Senator Gorst

The Channel Islands have a long and resourceful history, in which traditional industries such as agriculture and fishing played a significant part. In recent decades, we have adapted to more services-based economies, out of necessity as small islands with a shortage of land, as well as reflecting the wider changes in Europe and the rest of the world.

In particular Guernsey and Jersey have developed globally recognised expertise in financial services. Our combined investment funds industries have around €600 billion under management. This capital is attracted globally from growth areas such as the Gulf and the Far East and, as recent independent studies have confirmed, it is then invested to the strong net benefit of the UK, and the wider European economy.

In addition our banking sectors hold nearly €300 billion of deposits, providing essential liquidity to their parent banks, many of which are based in the EU.

We believe this highlights the importance of continued open trade and investment. Reciprocal market access, based on objective and transparent criteria and an objective and transparent assessment process, is mutually beneficial in helping to promote growth and jobs across Europe.

That is why we value the regular and effective dialogue and cooperation we have built up with the Commission, and with the European Supervisory Authorities regarding financial services regulation and supervision, and the formal “equivalence” that we have already achieved under a number of Directives.

Regulatory co-operation goes hand in hand with co-operation between tax authorities. Here too our cooperation with the EU is close and active. In a time of continued austerity, and fragile growth, we share the determination of the EU and the wider international community to tackle – and tackle hard – tax evasion and fraud.

We have for many years been voluntarily committed to, and compliant with the EU’s Code of Conduct on Business Taxation. The Commission, in its December 2012 Recommendation to Member States, identified such commitment and such compliance as being one of the key criteria in determining whether or not third countries have good tax governance.

We have also for many years participated in the withholding and automatic exchange arrangements under the EU Taxation of Savings Directive and stand ready to upgrade those arrangements as soon as the EU agrees the revision to the Directive. And we are actively participating in work, led by the OECD, to develop a new international standard based on automatic exchange of information between tax authorities.

In conclusion let me summarise by saying that the Channel Islands’ relationship with the EU and its Member States is deep, broad, and active. Our visit today is testimony to our commitment to the further strengthening of that relationship and to being good, responsible and co-operative neighbours.

Thank you again for your interest and support. “

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