Brexit risk to Jersey finance industry ‘very small’ but aquaculture threatened
A LEADING businessman has said Brexit will have limited impact on the Island’s finance sector, but could make our fishing industry vulnerable.
Sir Mark Boleat, former chairman of the City of London Policy Committee, Jersey Development Committee and the Channel Islands Competition and Regulatory Authorities, was in the Island for the International Banking Forum, Future of Wealth conference.
Speaking to delegates, Sir Mark said that financial services firms have already moved from the City of London and will stay moved, whatever the outcome of the Brexit situation.
He praised Jersey for its handling of the situation, but said it could be influenced by the damage to London and the UK, and one of the dangers is France using the Island as a bargaining tool or pressure point.
‘France is quite likely, and has already used Jersey as a picking point a couple of years ago on an issue. And if it suits France to do so it wouldn’t hesitate to again, one hopes it won’t happen.
‘Jersey should be all right in all of this. I think the chance of anything really nasty happening to Jersey as a result of Brexit is very small, but politically, you have to be ready for the things that could go wrong, even if the chance is very small.’
However, Sir Mark said that not all industries will be unaffected: ‘The business that’s vulnerable in Jersey is fishing. We know that most of the fish caught in Jersey are exported to France. It’s a small industry in Jersey, but it’s an important industry given Jersey’s history. So that is one that I think will be significantly affected.
‘Agriculture may even marginally benefit, in that competition from EU countries will be diminished. Tourism should be pretty unaffected, and there’s nothing in Brexit that should change that, if Sterling goes down further that might help with visitors from other countries, but again, tourism isn’t the size of industry it used to be.’
Don Thompson, president of the Jersey Fisherman’s Association, said he didn’t think fishing would be impacted as France relies on access to UK waters with around 70% of the overall catch going to European boats: ‘The situation here is not so dissimilar in that the French take far more fish out of our waters than we do, and they will want to continue taking fish out of our waters after Brexit. Access to our waters is so precious to them, the French fleets around Granville, would disappear tomorrow if they didn’t have access to our waters.’
Mr Thompson said access can be used as a bargaining tool, ‘To have fishing access to our waters we can ensure we continue to have access to French and European markets. It’s far from all in the hands of the French and Europe. We have some weight on our side.’
However he had some concerns for Jersey’s shellfish industry: ‘The oyster growers perhaps face some bigger challenges, I’m quite concerned for them.’
While fish caught in the sea, including lobsters and crab, can be landed without going through border control, because shellfish are farmed they have to be seen by a vet in Jersey and then a vet in France to receive health certificates and must go through border controls.
Chris Le Masurier, who owns Jersey Oyster Company, the largest oyster producing business in the British Isles, said: ‘It’s so political it will potentially have a huge impact on our business.’
He is very concerned about the logistics and costs of exporting to France and Europe post-Brexit. ‘It’s difficult enough sorting out getting it from a to b with it still being alive and in good condition as it is, but with all these extra controls and bureaucracy, the stuff will be dead by the time it gets there.’
Finding new markets is also not an easy option as although Mr Le Masurier said he exports around a quarter of his stock to the UK, that market is likely to become more difficult as UK growers seek to retain more of their stock in-house to avoid the same issues.
He has also tried to look as far afield as China for exporting, but that has its barriers: ‘The UK and European countries have got so many incentives to sell to China and to develop that market but we don’t get anything here. I’ve asked in Jersey about funding to help go to a trade show or something but the hoops you have to jump through means you never get anywhere.’