In my previous articles I discussed how the result of the Brexit referrendum has fueled separatism in Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland and even the city of London.
However, there is one more little known stakeholder in the United Kingdom that also has to bear the impact of the vote – the Channel Islands.
Constitutionally speaking, the Channel Islands are not part of the territory of the UK. Rather, for centuries it has officially been existing as the “royal dominion”.
In other words, its sovereignty belongs to the British royal familiy rather than the British government, and its history dates back to as early as the 10th century, when the British Isles were ruled by the Normans.
With an area of just 200 square kilometers and a population of a little more than 160,000, the Channel Islands are currently divided into two administrative districts: the Bailiwick of Jersey and the Bailiwick of Guernsey, and are given a high degree of autonomy.
Since the islands are not officially British territory, they are therefore not a member of the European Union either.
When the UK joined the European Common Market in 1973, the Channel Islands were asked to negotiate a separate treaty with Brussels over their official relations with the common market.
And thanks to that treaty, over the years products and produce of the Channel Islands have been able to enter the European market tariff-free, and their fishermen also allowed to fish in EU waters.
However, all these could undergo drastic changes as the British people have already voted to leave the EU, and the administration of the Channel Islands have wasted no time in persuading Brussels to maintain the same relations with them in the future.
In the meantime, officials of the Channel Islands have also started lobbying in London to make sure it will look after their interests when it negotiates with Brussels its terms for leaving the EU.
It is widely expected that products of the Channel Islands can still enjoy free entrance to the European market after the UK has officially left the EU.
In fact, Britain’s exit from the EU may pose both challenges and opportunities for the Channel Islands, as in the days ahead it might utilitize its distinct identity and act as a bridge between London and Brussels.
In the meantime, the way the Channel Islands re-define its role in the post-Brexit era in order to achieve its continued prosperity might also provide a lot of insight for small economic entities around the world into how to survive and prevail among strong neighbors.
This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on July 7.
Translation by Alan Lee
[Chinese version 中文版]
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