The talks, which concluded on Thursday, centred on Jersey’s efforts to extend the UK’s membership of the World Trade Organisation to the Island.
This is one of the main hurdles for Jersey’s government to overcome before ‘Brexit day’ on 29 March next year, as it would guarantee certain trading rights and protect the Island from costly trade tariffs and quotas when the UK exits the European Union. However, in order for WTO membership to be extended to the Island, Jersey would need to comply with the terms of the UK’s agreement.
A long-running piece of work has been carried out behind the scenes across States departments to assess which of Jersey’s policy areas may need to be looked at more closely, and even amended, in order to fit with WTO requirements.
Speaking about the talks and the extent to which any obstacles to compliance are emerging, Jersey’s director of external relations for Brexit David Walwyn said that, at this stage, nothing ‘insuperable’ had cropped up. ‘There are areas where we have had to have a detailed discussion about the arrangements,’ he said, ‘but I can safely say that there is, in our view, at this stage, nothing that we think would become insuperable problems for the future.’
With just 29 weeks left until Brexit day next year, Mr Walwyn said that, while discussions on this matter had been ongoing for a number of months, they were now proceeding on a ‘fairly urgent’ basis.
‘We are discussing WTO extension to Jersey on a fairly urgent basis as part of “our day-one, no-deal” preparations. However, it is not absolutely critical to have WTO extension by 29 March, because if we have established a good basis for our trading customs relationship with the UK, then there’s a degree of continuity and protection that that affords.’
But there has been some speculation that it would be crucial for Jersey to have WTO membership if the UK crashed out of the EU with no deal at all.
‘Yes and no,’ Mr Walwyn said in response. ‘As part of the contingency planning, we are working towards that but, in practice, there is no instance of a WTO member departing from their tariffs and schedules in order to target another territory that is closely associated with a WTO member.’
When asked if Guernsey were also involved in the discussions, it was confirmed that they ‘absolutely’ were, while representatives of the Isle of Man, which agreed its extension of the UK’s WTO membership in 1997, were not.