Jersey wants to run, while Guernsey would rather walk
Tuesday 15th January 2013, 5:00PM GMT.
JERSEY’S drive for independence from the UK seems to be stronger than ever.
While Guernsey’s chief minister, Deputy Peter Harwood, spoke diplomatically of a desire to work closer together, his opposite number, Ian Gorst, was firing out ideas like a machine gun as he spoke last week in favour of a Channel Islands federation.
A Channel Islands police force, a joint financial regulator,
Customs and Immigration and a foreign affairs committee were all floated by Senator Gorst.
Jersey has never been shy in shouting its ideas loud and clear, while it appears to be in Guernsey’s political character to take a much more measured
This was true too of a UK Foreign Affairs Committee review into the future of the Commonwealth that was published with little fanfare at the end of last year.
Both islands made a representation.
Guernsey’s was couched in much more restrained, diplomatic language.
‘Guernsey would welcome further discussions on what practices might be put in place to enable more direct representation at Commonwealth meetings in a manner that is consistent with Guernsey’s constitutional relationships,’ it said.
Jersey argued for associate membership status, outlining its strong qualifications for membership of the Commonwealth.
‘Jersey and the other Crown Dependencies should be granted the status of associate member and given the right to full participation in debates and procedures, with a right to speak where relevant but without a vote,’ it said.
Why push for change?
Jersey say that associate membership would mean that they would be granted a voice and the ability to contribute to the debate among full members.
Currently the Crown Dependencies are able only to attempt to contribute via the UK representative.
This mirrors an argument about the UK representing the islands in other international discussions – where there is a conflict in the positions, the Minister of Justice says that the interests of the UK would take precedence.
The report said that the UK Government was ‘keen to re-open discussions with the Commonwealth Secretariat and member states on different categories of membership, such as observer status’.
The Foreign and Commonwealth Office said that Overseas Territories and Crown Dependencies could ‘benefit from increased engagement with the Commonwealth’.
The Select Committee said that there were substantial arguments in favour of stronger connections between the Commonwealth and the Crown Dependencies and Overseas Territories.
But it noted there were constitutional objections to having a new category of Commonwealth member.
There was a clear hint the whole issue will be explored further: ‘We are currently conducting an inquiry into the foreign policy implications of and for a separate Scotland, and some related issues will be considered during the course of that inquiry.’
It is another sign of a desire from the islands to have a strong voice on the international stage.
But could that be advanced further by the concept of a Channel Islands federation, where the islands would unify in a single state, or confederation, where they would remain separate states but their actions would be co-ordinated?
Clearly the more co-operation, the more institutions that are merged, the further the islands are on the road towards confederation and then federation.
Last week Senator Gorst was clear that he wanted action.
‘I would support going both faster and further,’ he said.
‘Setting up more pan-Channel Islands bodies, agreeing more policy at Channel Islands level, with both islands delegating decision-making upwards and taking the first steps towards some confederated government structures.
‘For example, why shouldn’t we have a Channel Islands foreign affairs committee?
‘Both governments would contribute to the setting of foreign policy as equal partners, with a committee made up of ministers from the islands.
‘We know that we are viewed from abroad as the Channel Islands rather than as separate entities and it must be to our advantage to present ourselves to the outside world as a united confederation of the islands.
‘The differences between our two islands appear minimal when viewed from mainland Europe, let alone when viewed from the growing economies of Asia.
‘Getting our respective ministers working together in a confederated Channel Islands foreign affairs committee is something we could achieve this year, particularly if there is support from the public and the business community.’
Senator Gorst has his deputy chief minister, Sir Philip Bailhache, as another ardent supporter of greater independence.
From the outside at least it looks like they want to run while Guernsey prefers a more calculated walk.
CampaignsVoice For Victims
Voice for Victims is a campaign aimed at promoting the rights of those affected by child sexual abuse.