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Brexit: ‘Islands asked if France would be able to act for them’

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FRANCE was asked by Jersey and Guernsey if the nation would be able to act for them in Brexit negotiations, French media has reported.

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Last week, a summit was held in St Peter Port between Channel Island ministers, the president of the La Manche region, Marc Lefèvre, and the president of Normandy, Hervé Morin – the country’s former defence minister.

Following the summit, Mr Morin said he had been asked by the Channel Islands if France would be able to negotiate for them.

He said: ‘They asked us for a helping hand to ensure that it is France that negotiates on behalf of the Channel Islands for the consequences of Brexit.’

However, after putting the suggestion to Jean-Yves Le Drian, the country’s minister of Europe and Foreign Affairs, Mr Morin said that this was simply not possible.

The president also spoke about the impact that Brexit could have on Channel Island fishermen, who export 80 per cent of their catch to France.

‘A year ago all Channel Island fishermen were for Brexit; today they are all afraid. That is what Ian Gorst, the Foreign Minister of Jersey, said to us,’ said Mr Morin.

And, at the summit, in an interview with France 3, External Relations Minister Ian Gorst said that Jersey’s relationship with Normandy could change.

‘We are not in the European Union now other than for the trade of goods, particularly fisheries and agricultural products, so we will see a change and there will be a lot of technical issues which might impinge our relationship going forward with Normandy and we have spoken quite a bit about that today,’ he said.

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‘We want to enhance and strengthen the relationship post-Brexit but we recognise that will present some challenges but we have committed ourselves to trying to overcome those challenges.’

The discussions follow comments from Colin Powell in 2017, who was the economic adviser to the then Chief Minister Ian Gorst.

He said that Jersey might need to seek new alliances with EU member states such as Malta, Ireland and Estonia to speak on its behalf post-Brexit. He also said that the Channel Islands could soon need to ‘bat for themselves’ as offshore finance centres, as they would no longer be represented by the UK in Brussels.

And in 2017, Philippe Bas, senator for La Manche, revealed that the islands were concerned about the free movement of goods and people through Europe.

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He also said that Normandy was keen to continue to grow trade with the islands and that he and Mr Morin had written to Michel Barnier, chief EU Brexit negotiator, about protecting the current arrangements that the jurisdictions shared.

When asked if the islands’ government had asked if France could negotiate on behalf of the Channel Islands, a spokesman for the External Relations Department said: ‘The Government of Jersey has been in discussion with French colleagues at political, administrative and industry level to consider all the potential implications of the UK’s decision to exit the EU, concerning fishing and access to markets.

‘These are ongoing, and part of the wider contingency planning work that government is undertaking.’

Ed Taylor

By Ed Taylor
Journalist

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