HAVING read the articles (JEP 15 May) concerning the kerfuffle involving our French neighbours brought back fond memories of when my colleagues and I at Jersey Customs and Immigration started to develop close working relations with French customs officials. Initially the networking began not with work but with arranging annual football matches with Cherbourg Customs – one year in Cherbourg and the next here in the Island.
Gradually, as time went on and the operational networking increased, officers on both sides moved up the management chain but remained in close contact with each other. Some of the French colleagues who had started off in Cherbourg became very senior officers at national level in Paris, Rennes and Nantes.
What had started off as semi-social networking quickly developed into an important operational agreement. This was particularly important to both Jersey and Guernsey, as the French Customs lent their considerable resources to the Island’s enforcement capabilities.
The authors of Saturday’s JEP articles were none other than an ex-Bailiff and an ex-editor of the JEP. Also, our current External Relations Minister was the subject of the Saturday Interview. All three were articulating that Jersey should be more proactive in developing our own way forward with the French government, but particularly with our closest neighbours in Normandy and Brittany.
Chris Bright, the former editor of the JEP, even suggested ‘the current standoff might have been more easily solved over a three-hour lunch (or possibly two, home and away)’. Chris, or rather Mr Bright, you are spot on with that suggestion, as that is definitely the approach to encourage closer working and it really has to happen at local level to begin with.
I understand the issues facing our politicians, and that there have been talks at a more serious level, but from my experience investment in personal contacts created at the right level builds up trust, which, once established by whatever means, becomes very difficult to break.
The three articles I have alluded to in Saturday’s paper were written by authors who are well versed in legal and practical ways and hopefully a lasting working and politically acceptable way forward can emerge. The subject is too important for Jersey not to negotiate a win-win way forward.