Jersey granted permission to negotiate trade deal with UAE

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However, politicians past and present are still concerned that this permission process, known as entrustment, is still taking ‘far too long’ and needs to be streamlined if the Island is to prosper post-Brexit.

Following a trip to the United Arab Emirates last week, External Relations Minister Ian Gorst has confirmed that the UK government has given the Island an entrustment to negotiate directly with the Emirati government on a bilateral trade deal.

Until now, Jersey has not had the legal power to negotiate a treaty with any foreign government on matters outside of international tax.

‘We have the entrustment that says we can start the negotiation, and we have the model agreement for the bilateral investment treaty, which we have sent to the UAE. It is a model but it shouldn’t actually take that long to reach agreement on it,’ he said. ‘This will be the first bilateral treaty, and my aim is to deliver more of these over the next two years. We are seeking a second letter of entrustment to negotiate a similar treaty with Rwanda.’

However, responding to Senator Gorst’s announcement, the former External Relations Minister, Sir Philip Bailhache, said that, while it was ‘very good news indeed’, the three or four years it had taken the UK government to grant the entrustment, was ‘far too long’.

He went on to say that, post-Brexit, the Island would not be able to wait such a long time for UK permission to negotiate with jurisdictions that presented good business opportunities for Jersey.

‘Looking to the future, it would be very bad for Jersey if the tortuous process around the UAE entrustment were to be repeated,’ he said. ‘And I think it is very important that we ensure that it isn’t.

‘One of the things that I hope our government will pursue is an idea that was floated by a previous UK Minister of Trade for a “traffic light” system. This would divide countries [for which Jersey might be seeking an entrustment from the UK] into red, amber and green categories. Under that system, an entrustment for a “green” country, say, could be given within a month.’

Sir Philip also added that, under a more streamlined system, he would hope that Jersey could see its business in global markets grow. The current government estimate is that 88 per cent of the Island’s trade is still with the UK.

Commenting on this, the chairman of the Brexit Scrutiny Panel, Deputy Kirsten Morel, said that exploiting markets beyond the UK was a key component of Jersey’s future strategy and that preserving the Island’s ability to remain ‘nimble’ was crucial to its success.

‘I think that it would be good if our government were to push for a fast-track, streamlined process to make sure that it doesn’t take three years to simply negotiate for the ability to negotiate.

‘The global market strategy is a vital part of Jersey’s future economic growth plans.

‘These markets are all about being quick, and people always say that one of Jersey’s great qualities is to be able to do that and be nimble. So we do not want the UK slowing us down.’

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