EU Referendum

EU referendum: What do the Channel Islands think?

The EU, Guernsey and Jersey flags Image copyright Thinkstock
Image caption Jersey and Guernsey are not part of the European Union

The Channel Islands are not part of the EU and only a small percentage of residents are able to vote in the referendum on whether the UK should remain a member. But that doesn't necessarily mean the outcome of the vote will have no impact on the islands.

"Nearer to France but closer to home" is how the Channel Islands once sold themselves to holidaymakers.

The most southerly part of the British Isles, the islands are self-governing Crown Dependencies, not members of the EU and not part of the UK.

Only island residents who have lived in the UK within the past 15 years are eligible to vote on 23 June.

Image caption The only people in Guernsey who can vote are those who have lived in the UK in the past 15 years

Officially the Jersey and Guernsey governments have remained neutral.

But some have campaigned in the islands - and in the Isle of Man - for the Crown Dependencies to be given a vote in the EU referendum.

A petition launched by a group of islanders to get the vote was dismissed by the Queen in May.

Tony Webber, a former member of the States of Guernsey who was one of the petitioners, said: "We are being denied a chance to vote on our future. This is a great mistake by the UK government."

Who can vote in the referendum in the Channel Islands?

Image copyright Reuters

Nobody in the Channel Islands has a special right to vote in the EU referendum. The only islanders who can vote are those who have been on the electoral roll in the UK within the past 15 years. This is because any expats who have moved from the UK to any other part of the world in the past 15 years are allowed to vote - so Channel Islanders who fit into this category are no different to any other former residents of the UK.

Anyone who moved from the mainland to the islands within the past 15 years but was too young to vote when they lived in the UK could register to vote if their parent or guardian was registered to vote in the UK.

There are no polling stations in the Channel Islands for the EU referendum - votes can only be cast by post, by proxy, or by visiting the UK on the day of the referendum.

David Walwyn, Jersey's Director of External Relations, hopes the outcome of the referendum will not have too much of an impact on trade between his island and the rest of Europe - whatever the result.

According to Mr Walwyn, protocol three - the section of the UK Treaty of Accession relating to the islands - allows the islands to have free trade of goods with the EU without being a member of the union.

He said: "We should continue to have free trade of goods and continue to be a third party regardless of the outcome of the referendum.

"Our position is that we are not seeking any change in the relationship Jersey has with the UK or European Union."

Fisherman in Jersey and Guernsey have their own separate arrangements with the UK and European Union.

Guernsey fisherman, Dougal Lane said: "An awful lot of fishermen think it would be good to get control of British waters. The French have access to British waters but we don't have access to theirs.

"But we might lose our markets… Would protocol three be suspended?"

Image caption Jersey's Director of External Relations fears Brexit could have an impact on the island's economy

For Jersey's Don Thompson the issue is of more concern as, unlike Guernsey, Jersey has signed up to a fisheries management agreement with the UK, giving crews access to EU waters.

He said: "That fisheries management agreement binds us to all EU regulation.

"This is the unfairness for Jersey. We don't have access to EU funds but we have to accept all the regulation that comes from the EU."

Meanwhile the body that represents Guernsey's finance industry abroad has said the island "offers stability for international business", particularly Asian markets, "during a period of uncertainty".

Speaking in March, Guernsey Finance chief executive Dominic Wheatley said: "Guernsey's position with respect to the EU is very clear - we're a 'third country' now and we'd still be a 'third country' in the event of a 'Brexit'."

Mr Walwyn disagrees, at least initially. He said the impact on finance would be negative on the island economy.

He said: "If the UK decided it was going to exit the EU it would be negative initially for Jersey because Jersey is so influenced by the finance industry.

"The exit for the UK would have a negative impact on the finance industry in London and that would be accelerated for Jersey as the island is more reliant on finance than the UK is."

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