Head of the new Government of Jersey London Office, Kate Nutt, discusses the concept of Crown Dependency, potatoes and the island’s important relationships with the international community
Representing Jersey in London is not always the most straightforward of tasks. Clarifying that we’re not the US state of New Jersey is sometimes helpful, but it’s often the finer points of what a Crown Dependency is, and our relationship with the UK, that can be more difficult to explain.
Some confusion is perhaps understandable. At just nine miles by five and with a population of around 100,000, Jersey is significantly smaller than most of the states represented here. But Jersey’s permanent presence in London, established in October last year, means we are now resourced to make many more new contacts than has previously been possible.
Jersey, along with the other Channel Islands and the Isle of Man, is a British Crown Dependency. This means that, unlike the British Overseas Territories, our constitutional relationship is with the British Crown rather than with the UK government. This link has been established for more than 800 years, since Jersey formed part of the Duchy of Normandy. When the British monarch, who was also Duke of Normandy, lost continental Normandy in 1204, Jersey took the decision to remain loyal to the Crown. Hence, even today, when we raise a toast in Jersey to Her Majesty the Queen, we refer to her as ‘our Duke’.
Under this constitutional arrangement, Jersey is self-governing: we have our own Government, Parliament (the States Assembly) and our own legal system. Our continuing link with the Crown means that, in a similar way to the UK, our primary legislation requires the assent of HM the Queen, through the Privy Council. In practical terms, this means that the Government of Jersey, along with the other Crown Dependencies, works closely with a dedicated team at the UK’s Ministry of Justice to ensure that the legislative process runs as smoothly as possible. In this respect we are perhaps rather different from other representative offices: whilst we are not governed by the UK, and a key part of our role involves engaging with the UK Government as a third party, Jersey benefits from having something of a constitutional ‘foot in the door’.
In matters of defence and international relations, however, the UK does take some responsibility for the island. In the latter area we have, in recent years, taken on a significantly greater role, a development which led to the appointment of a Minister for External Relations in September last year, and the establishment of the London Office, of which I am Head. The Jersey London Office is intended both to sustain Jersey’s existing relationships and to enable us to engage more widely and effectively with the UK government, Parliament and the diplomatic community.
High on our list of priorities is helping to promote and defend Jersey’s economic interests, many of which are inextricably linked to the UK. Jersey’s financial services industry, for example, which is responsible for more than 20 per cent of employment on the Island, is driven to a significant degree by our close links to the City of London. Our relationship with both the UK government and Parliamentarians is vital to preserving and building on Jersey’s success in this area. It is worth noting, too, that this relationship also delivers significant benefits to the UK. For example, a recent study by Capital Economics found that Jersey, principally through financial services, delivers a net benefit to UK GDP of around £9 billion a year, or the equivalent of 180,000 UK jobs.
Jersey’s interests, of course, go some way beyond financial services, and one of the most enjoyable features of the work in the London Office is the sheer breadth of areas we cover. Whether we are helping to promote the dairy industry, negotiating over fisheries, discussing cyber security or taking delivery of the first Jersey Royal potatoes of the season – all of which is no mean feat with a team of four – our wide range of responsibilities are testament to the great diversity of our small island.
As well as working with the UK Government, engagement with the diplomatic corps is central to the work of the London Office. As I have mentioned, Jersey has in recent years taken on increasing responsibility for our own international relations, which has led to the establishment of two further overseas offices in Brussels and in Northern France. Having a presence in London is helping to build on and support the work of our other offices, by enabling Jersey to grow and maintain important relationships with the international community through engagement with embassies, high commissions and representative offices based here. Even in the short time the office has been in operation, I have been overwhelmed by the warmth and enthusiasm with which this engagement has been received, and I look forward to meeting many more diplomatic colleagues in the coming months.