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‘We’re still ready for no-deal Brexit’

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JERSEY’S government is still preparing for the ‘very real possibility’ of a no-deal Brexit at the end of 2020 should the UK and EU’s trade talks collapse next year, a new report has confirmed.

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External Relations Minister Ian Gorst has published his latest Brexit update report, in which he outlines developments that have affected the Island since the Conservative Party’s decisive victory in the UK general election earlier this month.

After securing an 80-seat majority in the House of Commons, the Tories have been able to pass Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s EU Withdrawal Agreement, paving the way for the UK to leave the trading bloc at the end of January.

Following this the UK will look to pursue a new free-trade agreement with the EU, as well as with other countries around the world, such as the USA, Australia and New Zealand.

In his report, Senator Gorst says that despite the increased certainty in the UK’s direction and aversion of no-deal in the short term there was no room for complacency in Jersey.

‘While the outcome of the election has reduced the immediate prospect of a no-deal Brexit in January 2020, it does not mean that we can become complacent,’ he said.

‘As the withdrawal phase of Brexit looks set to reach its conclusion, the next phase – the future UK-EU relationship – will begin imminently.

‘The implications of these negotiations for both the UK and Jersey are significant, and officials are building upon detailed work to assess how and where Jersey should wish to be involved in these discussions.

‘The outcome of these negotiations could shape the Island for years, and Jersey needs to be ready to feed into this process and ensure the objectives and interests of our island and our economy are heard and understood.’

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The report says that the threat of a no-deal Brexit ‘still lingers’ on 31 December 2020, if trade talks with the EU are not fruitful.

It says: ‘The Withdrawal Agreement provides that the negotiations must be concluded by 31 December 2020. It looks very challenging to conclude negotiations and secure ratification in the time available, yet Prime Minister Johnson has consistently ruled out any extension and has inserted a clause into the Withdrawal Agreement to this end.

‘That raises the very real possibility of a no-deal departure at the end of 2020, which would have significant impact on Jersey. The Government of Jersey is ready to mitigate the effects of any no-deal which may occur at the end of 2020, and will continue to engage with colleagues in the UK and the EU to ensure that this remains the case.’

Jersey’s government made extensive preparations for a no-deal scenario this year, with three Brexit deadlines being set through the year in March, April and October before extensions were agreed.

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Their work included extended liaisons with the port of Portsmouth, from which the Island receives most of its freight, as well as organising stockpiling of goods.

The States also passed a proposition to modernise the emergency planning laws to ensure vital goods such as food and medicine continue to reach the Island in case there is any disruption to supply chains.

The report says that Brexit will have ‘far-reaching implications’ for Jersey.

‘Whatever form Brexit takes – and whenever it may happen – Jersey will not be unaffected. Maintaining the status quo is not an option,’ it says.

‘Our relationship with the EU will change, and the Island will almost certainly need to make difficult decisions in the months and years to come, particularly in relation to the proposed post-Brexit UK-EU trading relationship.

‘It is not easy to predict what will happen in a process that has been characterised by uncertainty and unpredictability, but what is evident is that the outcome of Brexit will have extensive, far-reaching implications for the UK, EU and for Jersey.’

Ian Heath

By Ian Heath
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