Bailiwicks braced for 'knife-edge' Brexit vote

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Businesses in the Channel Islands are gearing up efforts to open new trade links with France, ahead of this weekend’s Brexit vote in the UK parliament.

On Saturday 19 October MPs will vote on the deal Prime Minister Boris Johnson agreed with the EU.

In Jersey, a new group made up of business representatives, including Jersey Business and the Chamber of Commerce have been meeting with their counterparts from the Brittany and Normandy regions.

Business has always done this, regardless of whatever government’s do, wherever those governments might be, there’s nothing stopping businesses doing business with other businesses in other countries.

Yes there may be paperwork issues, yes there may be freight issues but that doesn’t stop us talking and saying we want to do business together and there are some good reasons why we should

– Murray Norton, CEO of Jersey Chamber of Commerce

Plans for a new air link between the islands and Rennes Airport, as well as extra sea links, are being developed, with a senior French business leader visiting Jersey.

You know what we say in English is that we have to put some meat on the bones, so when I come back we will meet the airline companies and the sea freight companies just to consolidate all the information and to show them that we need more links and there is the potential to put more links between our two countries.

– Bertand Gervais, MD of World Trade Centre in Rennes

Mr Gervais and his team have also been meeting with officials in Guernsey.

Kay Leslie from Guernsey’s Chamber of Commerce believes better links with France could be good for business and could help solve ongoing staff shortages, particularly in the hospitality trade.

The business opportunity with our French neighbors is huge. So we’ve been talking to the French Chamber of Commerce, French retailers, French business groups with a view to being very active with them going forward, and of course part of that is the dreaded Brexit scenario which still we can’t be totally clear about.

– Kay Leslie, Director of Guernsey Chamber of Commerce

Politically, the governments of Jersey and Guernsey say they are continuing to work on their no deal Brexit plans while preferring that the UK strikes a deal for a so-called ‘managed’ exit.

Well who knows, the politics is obviously a matter for the Prime Minister and his team but it would seem the numbers in the House of Commons are likely to be tight, one way or another. And even if there is a vote in favour in principle on Saturday there is the legislation to follow next week and the European Union’s parliament also needs to approve this.

– Guernsey’s Chief Minister, Deputy Gavin St Pier, said:

Meanwhile, it’s today been confirmed both Jersey and Guernsey will be formally represented by the UK at the World Trade Organisation after any exit from the European Union is complete.

It follows months of negotiations between officials in the islands and at Westminster.

Britain is on the verge of taking back control of our trade policy for the first time in 46 years. That means our own independent seat at the World Trade Organisation and I am delighted we will soon extend our membership to include the Channel Islands. 

This is an important step that provides continuity for the businesses and consumers of the Channel Islands and reaffirms the UK’s commitment to preserving and advancing the global trading system in the face of rising protectionism.

– Liz Truss MP, Secretary of State for International Trade

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