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Jersey, Guernsey To Hold Talks On Closer Co-operation

Robert Lee,, London

21 November 2000

In recent months, the Channel Islands have drawn closer, and calls for a Channel Islands alliance have received top-level backing in Guernsey and Jersey. Jersey's Finance and Economics Committee president, Senator Frank Walker, is putting his full weight behind closer ties. Now it looks like they might become reality, with the announcement that senior politicians from Guernsey and Jersey will be meeting in the New Year to discuss practical methods of cooperation between the islands.

Senator Walker, adressing Guernsey's Institute of Directors last week, said: 'We have all heard a lot of talk about closer co-operation between the islands. The time has come to take positive and effective action. This we will be doing in the New Year when Laurie Morgan [Guernsey's Advisory and Finance President] and I, with other senior politicians, get together to plan positive actions we can take.'

Senator Walker first called for closer co-operation at an Institute of Directors conference in October. Last week he confirmed his commitment: 'At the time of the conference I said that I would take up the challenge and I stick by that pledge,' he said. 'After the conference I had a meeting with Laurie Morgan and as a result of that we will be getting together with senior colleagues to explore areas where we can pool resources and take positive action.'

He continued: 'Closer co-operation is absolutely essential. In the current international climate with European Union and OECD interest in our affairs we face the same problems. We are being looked at by envious and unfriendly eyes. We will be much stronger together than apart.' It is true that the two UK dependencies have much in common: they have a more-or-less united approach in discussions and negotiations with the EU and OECD and on a domestic level, both islands face the same problems of labour shortages, inflation and threats to their taxation structures.

Significantly, Senator Walker said that Jersey and Guernsey should pursue a joint fiscal strategy: 'You will be hearing more and more about the Channel Islands’ position on matters in the future and not the Guernsey position nor the Jersey view,' he said. Other areas of co-operation he suggested were a joint regulator for telecoms business and a joint Financial Services Commission.

Commenting on the idea of shared utilities between the islands, he said: 'To continue to compete successfully in the top flight of international finance centres we need nothing short of world class telecommunications. Why not a Channel Islands Telecoms company and a Channel Islands Electricity company? They could both be privatised which would ensure that they were run more profitably and the States in both islands could use the funds freed up to better advantage.'

However, Senator Walker has now categorically ruled out independence for Jersey or some kind of Federation of the Channel Islands. He stated: 'There is nobody seriously suggesting independence and federation is not on anyone’s agenda. Federation is not necessary to achieve the cooperation we require. Who knows what might happen in the future but that is a non-runner at the present. I know we would all want to preserve the uniqueness of our islands.'


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