Call to give the Island its own Foreign Office

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The idea was raised at a meeting of the government’s Economic and International Affairs Scrutiny Panel.

Senator Ian Gorst, the Minister for External Relations and Financial Services, said the two sides of his department could be divided, creating a dedicated foreign affairs department. He has lodged an amendment to the proposed Government Plan, which will be debated on Tuesday, to do so.

Senator Gorst argued: ‘It is critically important when we are overseas that we are seen and understood to be in effect Jersey’s Foreign Office.’

He added that in any case Jersey’s government was to all intents and purposes a national government rather than a local council – and needed its own foreign minister.

Senator Gorst said: ‘We have high degree of autonomy on all matters domestic and fiscal.

‘We have a connection to the Crown and through that to the UK, and it has served us incredibly well. But we do not want to be pushed into something that duplicates a UK local authority. We are a Jersey government.’

There would also be a 30-day consultation with the department’s 100 staff members, but Senator Gorst said: ‘It could be undertaken in a cost-neutral way.’

And he predicted: ‘It could easily be completed by the end of February.’

Assistant minister Richard Buchanan agreed with the idea, saying: ‘I don’t think we can underestimate the value of having a separate external relations minister.

Constable Richard Buchanan. Picture: DAVID FERGUSON. (32230074)

‘People like to know who they are dealing with, and they look at their title.

‘Having an external relations minister will be completely understood by the people we do business with.’

Panel chairman Deputy David Johnson also supported the idea. He said: ‘It puts us on a par with international example.

Deputy David Johnson. Picture: ROB CURRIE. (32230071)

‘Someone has said that Jersey is 99% an independent entity, rather than a local authority with a few bits added on.’

The Scrutiny panel said there were potentially more fishing licences to come for French vessels, on top of the 125 permanent licences that have already been issued.

Senator Gorst said the government had received ‘a substantial amount of logbook information’ from fishermen which was now being worked through by officers.

He said: ‘It may be that additional licences are able to be issued.

‘But it’s “may” and “possibly”, not “absolutely” or “probably”.’

He said other issues such as difficulties with landing catch in French ports would be addressed after licensing.

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