Brexit: Industry leaders give trade deal hopes and fears
LEADERS in Jersey’s fishing, farming and hospitality industries have outlined their hopes and fears as the UK prepares to leave the EU and negotiate a new trade deal by the end of this year.
Three-and-a-half years after the historic referendum on EU membership, today is Brexit Day, with the UK set to formally leave the trading bloc at 11pm.
After that a transition period will be entered into where London and Brussels will aim to negotiate a new trade deal by 31 December.
New restrictions on trade, such as tariffs, are likely to apply, as well as on freedom of movement, such as new immigration rules.
Don Thompson, president of the Jersey Fishermen’s Association, said he was concerned about recent moves by the EU to use fishing rights in UK waters as a bargaining chip for trade negotiations in other industries, such as financial services.
‘It’s notable that the EU is trying very hard to link trade negotiations with the issue of access to UK waters,’ he said.
‘In our view the two matters are separate and should not be linked. Certain UK fishermen are saying that there’s a big risk of what happened in 1973 happening again, which was the Common Fisheries Policy allowing access of EU vessels to UK waters.’
In a local context he said that he had never known the industry to be in such a dire state and felt Jersey was missing the opportunity of Brexit to assert more control over its territorial waters.
‘I would estimate that half of our fleet is on the market now. Our main catches, which are lobsters and crabs, are down 50% compared to five or six years ago,’ he said.
‘It is down to government not giving us more support to review the Bay of Granville Treaty and to try to take back control of our waters.
‘It’s a real shame because we had a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to do this with Brexit. But our government seems to be happy to allow as many French vessels to fish in our waters as they like.’
He added: ‘In the UK they have just passed legislation which will require EU vessels to have a licence to fish in UK waters. Why can’t we take control of our waters and issue licences, so we can fish them and maintain them sustainably?’
Peter Le Maistre, president of the Jersey Farmers’ Union, said that the timing of the deal deadline would favour his industry but he was concerned about new trade barriers coming into force.
‘My hope is that negotiations go smoothly and we end up with a deal that has no tariffs,’ he said.
‘Realistically this is unlikely and the last few weeks of this year could give us some uncertainty. The good news is that, apart from daffodils, the Island exports very little in January and February, so as an industry we will have a couple of months to prepare for the new set up.
‘We will work with External Relations Minister Ian Gorst and his team to make sure that the UK government are aware of our concerns on any relevant matters. Otherwise, I think we continue to pursue our existing and new markets.’
Simon Soar, chief executive of the Jersey Hospitality Association, said he was concerned about the potential impact on importation of both goods and labour.
The industry is largely staffed by EU nationals and could be one of the hardest hit by any new immigration restrictions.
‘We have concerns that the transition period will have an impact on goods coming into the Island, but our biggest concern is over our ability to bring in our workforce,’ he said.
‘I hope we’ll still be able to bring in staff without compromising the quality or continuity of services. We will continue to reach out to our members to push the message that they need to ensure their staff are signed up to the EU settlement scheme.
‘We would like them to keep an eye out for the information we are sending out on what the new immigration process will be.’
'I'm sick to death of going completely around in a circle... we should be telling the public as soon as possible'
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