Independence for Guernsey calls in event of bad Brexit deal

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Guernsey-based venture capitalist and private-equity specialist Jon Moulton said that independence might be necessary for the island because of the possibility that ‘London and Brussels will generate quite different rulebooks for the future’.

Addressing the question of whether Jersey’s government might consider independence in a no-deal scenario, a States spokesman said that, while no change in Jersey’s relationship with the UK is envisaged, the publishing of a series of ‘Brexit technical notices’ demonstrates that active preparations for the possibility of a no-deal Brexit are nonetheless under way.

The technical notices assess the impact of a ‘hard Brexit’ on a number of areas of Jersey’s economy and public sector services, ranging from financial services through to security of medical supplies. They have been published on the States website and will be developed and added to throughout September.

However, despite speculation by leading UK politicians that a no-deal outcome is looking increasingly likely, Jersey’s government continues in its view that an agreement between the UK and EU remains the most probable outcome.

‘The Government of Jersey continues to work closely with the UK government to prepare for the possible impacts of Brexit on the Island,’ a spokesman said. ‘Our relationship with the United Kingdom is long-standing, and remains our most fundamental political and trading alliance, and it is not envisaged that this will change following Brexit.

‘We continue to believe that a negotiated outcome on withdrawal and a future relationship is in the interest of all parties and remains the most likely Brexit outcome. Nevertheless, from the outset we have planned on the basis of a hard Brexit in order to have the appropriate contingencies in place.’

However, former External Relations Minister Sir Philip Bailhache had seemed to take a harder line on independence while in office, telling the JEP last year that the government ought to seize the ‘opportunity’ of Brexit to consider greater independence from the UK and set up a Channel Islands confederacy with Guernsey.

The current External Relations Minister, Senator Ian Gorst, meanwhile, is leading the Island’s Brexit negotiations on the basis that ‘the most important relationship for Jersey throughout this entire negotiation that the UK is having with the EU is our continued relationship with the UK’.

However, much of the unresolved work being done between Senator Gorst’s team and their counterparts in Whitehall and Westminster revolves around future trade relationships. The specific focus is the extension of the UK’s membership of the World Trade Organisation to Jersey, which would give the Island an international trading platform, and yet it is not yet clear whether those negotiations will be concluded in time.

‘I think ultimately we will get to a point where it is extended to us,’ Senator Gorst told the JEP in discussions relating to the extension of the UK membership to the Island. ‘The question is, will that timeline be perfectly aligned with the UK leaving the EU? It may not be.’

When pressed on when it would be possible to say for sure, he said: ‘I would hope that we could be making that call in the final quarter of this year.’

Jersey’s team of officials are continuing to meet regularly with counterparts in Whitehall.

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