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Brexit: Could Theresa May take ‘Jersey option’

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A ‘JERSEY option’ version of Brexit modelled on the Island’s trade and immigration arrangements with the EU is due to be proposed shortly by the UK Prime Minister, it is rumoured.

Prime Minister Theresa May could shortly propose a Brexit model that is similar to the relationship enjoyed between Jersey and the EU

According to media reports in the UK press, the so-called ‘Jersey option’, which would see the UK remain within the EU’s Customs Union and Single Market for goods but not for services and freedom of movement, is understood to be the preferred Brexit model for the UK government.

If such a deal could be agreed with the EU, the resulting arrangements would be similar to those of Jersey, which, while not being part of the EU, has access to the Single Market for goods, such as its agricultural and fisheries produce, but not for services such as its finance industry, which it negotiates with the EU on a case-by-case basis for market access. Jersey has also found ways to control population, and therefore the immigration of EU nationals, through its work and housing laws.

The JEP revealed in January that the ‘Jersey option’ had been proposed by the Centre for European Reform think-tank as one of the best Brexit options for both the EU and UK.

It was argued that the model would provide a number of advantages, including the resolution of the Irish border issue because continuing free trade in goods would mean border checks should not be required between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland.

Other suggested advantages of the Jersey option would be:

*The UK could negotiate independent free trade deals with countries around the world for its important financial services sector without interference from the EU.

*The move would be attractive to the EU because it has a large trade surplus in goods with the UK which would continue without any border controls or tariffs.

It is understood that Prime Minister Theresa May is due to call a meeting of her cabinet tomorrow FRI to discuss the final details of a Brexit white paper, which is due to be published next week.

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Insiders at Whitehall are reportedly saying that its likely main proposal will be for the UK to remain in the EU Single Market for goods but not for services – the so-called Jersey option.

It is understood that such an arrangement may be temporary. It would nonetheless be likely to upset ‘hard Brexiteers’ in the cabinet, such as Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson, who are keen for the UK to fully withdraw from the Single Market and the Customs Union.

A spokesman for the Island’s External Relations Department confirmed that the ‘Jersey option’ was a popular name given to a Brexit model where the UK remained within the Customs Union.

‘It should be noted this model does not account for any agreement being made on trade in services, which represents up to 80 per cent of the UK’s economy,’ he said.

‘The paper where the model was first proposed also identifies Jersey and the Crown Dependencies as having a “similar relationship with the EU” to the proposed Brexit solution, but does not take into account the constitutional peculiarity of the Island’s relationship with the UK, or the nature of our relationship with the EU under Protocol 3.’

He added: ‘This model has not been confirmed as the preferred option of the Prime Minister or Cabinet, and it would be inappropriate for the Government of Jersey to speculate on the customs options being deliberated by the UK government.’

Ian Heath

By Ian Heath
author

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