Jersey’s trade deal with the EU could be the best post-Brexit option for the UK rather than the deals agreed with Canada or Norway, a leading London-based think-tank has suggested.
John Springford and Sam Lowe, of the Centre for European Reform, have proposed that by emulating the Island’s trade relationship with the EU, the UK government could resolve the Irish border issue and secure enough bargaining power to apply tighter immigration controls, which are two key Brexit issues.
Jersey, which is not part of the EU, does have access to the Single Market for goods such as agricultural and fisheries produce, but not for services such as its finance industry, which it negotiates with the EU on a case-by-case basis for market access.
Rather than following the proposed Norway option, which allows full access to the Single Market, or the Canada option – which involves less market access, no money paid to the EU and greater immigration controls – Mr Springford and Mr Lowe have proposed a Jersey-style option, which they say is a ‘halfway house’ between the two. They argue that the UK government faces too much political pressure to stay fully in the Single Market, but also faces an economic crisis if they leave it completely. Instead, the pair say that the Jersey option could be the best resolution.
Their bulletin, posted on the Centre for European Reform’s website, says that the Jersey option would be acceptable to both the UK and EU and that by sacrificing automatic access to EU markets for its services industries sector, including the City of London, the UK would be likely to have more negotiating power to restrict the EU’s ‘freedom of movement’ policy and apply its own immigration controls.
It also suggests that the Jersey option would provide more advantages, including:
*Resolution of the Irish border question, as trade in goods with the EU would continue without border checks and tariffs. This would ease concerns that new border controls at the UK’s only land border with the EU could revive divisions and tensions in the north of Ireland.
*The UK would be able to negotiate independent trade deals with countries around the world, without EU interference, for its financial services sector.
*The move would be attractive to the EU because it has a large trade surplus in goods with the UK, which would continue without new border controls or tariffs.
Under the Jersey option the UK would still be required to contribute some money to the EU for the development of Central and Eastern Europe.
Mr Spingford and Mr Lowe added, however, that the Jersey option would only be likely to be implemented if a Labour government was elected, as Prime Minister Theresa May faces too much pressure from Conservative MPs to ensure that Britain leaves the Single Market and Customs Union entirely, which would happen under the Canada-style agreement.
‘The Jersey option would…solve the Irish border issue: there would be no need for border checks of any sort, since all goods shipped across it would be produced according to EU rules, and no tariffs would be payable,’ their paper says.
‘But it would require Theresa May to soften many of her red lines, and her party would be likely to defenestrate her [remove her from power] if she did so.
‘Perhaps a Labour government would be capable of delivering such a plan, but it would have to force an election – and win it – first.’
The Centre for European Reform has been described as ‘by far the best of all EU think-tanks in London’ by the Guardian and as having an ‘an increasingly influential role in the shaping of official policy’ by the Financial Times.