A Brussels office representing the political interests of both Guernsey and Jersey is under consideration, according to officials on both islands, and could be open as soon as June.
The plan to open an office in Brussels “to be funded on a joint basis with our Guernsey colleagues” is currently being evaluated, a statement released on Wednesday evening by the office of Jersey chief minister Terry Le Sueur said.
This confirmed a Guernsey Press & Star report which cited that island’s chief minister, Lyndon Trott, as telling a seminar audience saying on Monday that “[Guernsey] States chief executive Mike Brown and his Jersey equivalent” were in Brussels at that moment “sorting out an agreement” on a “pan-island office” there.
Neither Guernsey nor Jersey are members of the European Union, of which Brussels is effectively the capital city, although they are crown dependencies of Britain, which is.
‘Already use the same firm’
In his statement, Le Sueur noted that Guernsey and Jersey “already use the same firm in Brussels to provide advice on a very wide range of issues”. This is understood to be Brunswick, the politically-connected international lobbying, public relations and policy development group originally founded in London in 1987 by Alan Parker.
“It is therefore sensible to continue this co-operation and evaluate the options and benefits of extended representation in Brussels,” the statement added.
“It is normal for member states, their regions and third countries to have a permanent representation in Brussels, and the EU is a very important international entity which has a significant impact on the many issues that affect the Channel Islands.
“These include trade in agriculture and other goods, air transport, EU and European issues that impact on Financial Services.”
Follows Gibraltar meeting
News of a possible joint office in Brussels comes two weeks after news of what was widely seen as a curious meeting in Gibraltar between the chief ministers of that jurisdiction, Guernsey and Jersey.
That meeting was officially described as “a fact-finding and familiarization visit in relation to taxation, [the] EU, financial services and political matters”, and was seen as significant because it followed months of increased scrutiny of Britain’s offshore jurisdictions by authorities in the UK and other G20 countries.
That meeting also followed Britain’s decision to end its reciprocal healthcare agreements with the three crown dependencies – Jersey, Guernsey and the Isle of Man – as well as its unexpected announcement in October to slash the IoM’s annual budget by 24%, or £140m, by changing the terms of a long-established customs revenue-sharing agreement.
It was not clear last night what the advantages for Guernsey and Jersey would be in having their own office in Brussels, as opposed to outsourcing their intelligence-gathering and lobbying activities to a firm like Brunswick. Over the past two years Guernsey and Jersey have opened marketing offices in Shanghai and Hong Kong, respectively, and Jersey opened one in London, through their Guernsey Finance and Jersey Finance marketing arms.