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Island watching the UK’s trade negotiations

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JERSEY will need to consider how it participates in any post-Brexit trade deals struck by the UK given the potential impact on domestic issues such as environmental and human-rights laws, a report says.

Senator Ian Gorst Picture: ROB CURRIE. (28738945)

In its new Brexit update report, the External Relations Department said it was doing all it could to prepare the Island for the post-Brexit ‘new normal’ at the end of the year after the transition period comes to an end.

The UK, which officially exited the EU on 31 January, has not asked to extend the transition period, meaning it will either need to strike new free-trade deals with the EU and other countries by 31 December or a ‘no-deal’ hard Brexit will take place.

In his foreword to the report, External Relations Minister Ian Gorst said that the Island was monitoring the development of UK free-trade deals around the world.

‘The UK is keen to use its freedom in the international trade arena, as is apparent in the recent negotiation launches from the Department of International Trade, to begin talks with the US, Japan, New Zealand, Australia and the Trans-Pacific Partnership countries,’ he said.

‘We are actively engaging with the UK and keeping a watchful eye on these developments, while remaining determined that Jersey’s own autonomy and identity will not be compromised as a result of involvement.’

The report adds that entering into new trade agreements would have a number of domestic consequences for the Island.

‘In addition to governing the direct trading relationship between parties, modern FTAs impact on a wide range of customs, animal, plant and human health measures, and include commitments on human rights and social provisions,’ it says.

‘In many cases these provisions have a direct effect on domestic policy and legislation. All of these factors must be considered holistically to determine how, and to what extent, Jersey wishes to participate in future UK trade agreements.’

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Jersey was never formally part of the EU, but, through an addendum, named protocol 3, to the UK’s Act of Accession to the then-European Community in 1974, had a free trade in goods and a freedom-of-movement agreement with the bloc.

The Island’s services industry, dominated by finance, has always operated outside of the EU, but trade with the continent had been enabled by a series of ‘equivalence’ agreements, which ensure Jersey regulations match those of Brussels where necessary.

The update report says that the government is planning further engagement with the fisheries and agricultural industries to brief them on the impact of a no-deal scenario, under which their trade with the EU would become subject to World Trade Organisation rules and tariffs.

Jersey’s largest export market for fish, before the Covid-19 outbreak, was France, while most farm produce is exported to the UK.

Ian Heath

By Ian Heath
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