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21.05.2018 01:50 Age: 2 days

Guernsey asserts right to reject future UK interference


Guernsey Chief Minister Gavin St Pier has issued a statement affirming Guernsey's constitutional right to political independence in its internal affairs, which it had to assert last month to prevent the UK Parliament imposing public registers of beneficial ownership on the island.

The UK move was prompted by an independent group of MPs, rather than the British government itself. They tabled an amendment to the government's Sanctions and Anti-Money Laundering Bill, requiring the government to enforce public registers on the 14 Overseas Territories (OTs) and the Crown Dependencies (CDs) by the end of 2020. In the event, Guernsey and the other CDs convinced the MPs that the UK government did not have powers to force them into line, and the amendment was itself modified to exclude the CDs. However, the Overseas Territories were included, and the Bill was amended accordingly and is progressing into law.

There have since been suggestions that the same group of British MPs, led by Andrew Mitchell, will make another attempt to force public registries on the CDs. Chief Minister St Pier's statement is evidently intended to warn that Guernsey will not submit to such an attempt.

He restated the 'long-standing constitutional principle that Westminster does not legislate for us without our consent on purely domestic matters'. During the passage of the Sanctions and Anti-Money Laundering Bill , he said, he had been 'concerned that a number of UK MPs had seemed prepared to dispense with established constitutional conventions in seeking to impose UK policy in a move which gave serious consideration to riding roughshod over centuries of constitutional convention, our ancient rights and our democratic process'.

'We have no intention of being passive or defensive', he warned. 'On the contrary, we will be proactive and proud when it is appropriate to be so.' Though not an independent state, Guernsey has competence over its domestic affairs and is economically self-sufficient, paying no taxes to the UK or EU, and receiving no contribution from UK or EU revenues, St Pier stressed. 'The history is important because it sets Guernsey and the Crown Dependencies firmly apart from the constitutional position of the Overseas Territories.'

'We will move to a public register of beneficial ownership if that becomes an international standard', he reiterated. 'It must be a standard agreed by all jurisdictions - there must be a level playing field. Public registers are not the agreed policy of the G20 countries.'

Some of the British Overseas Territories have also given notice that they may bring legal challenges to the UK's unilateral directions.

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Guernsey asserts right to reject future UK interference