A week is a long time in politics; the last four weeks have changed the landscape politically, economically and constitutionally.
It would normally take a decade to create so many shifts. It has been described as the political earthquake by some, and if that earthquake has an epicentre, it is BREXIT. When it became clear in the early hours of the morning on the 24th June that the voters of the United Kingdom would vote to leave the European Union, this was not the result that most people unexpected.It seemed that most governments around the world, including dare I say it, the United Kingdom, had not even contemplated a BREXIT decision.
Hindsight is always a great thing and today peoyple will often say that of course they knew, but the wise words of one of our highly respected members of the Fiscal Policy Panel sums the situation up well – “nobody has evidence of the future”.
However, it is important that even without evidence of the future, that there is always cool, level-headed realistic assessment of risk. At the end of the day, most opinion polls were narrow enough to have at least considered an exit result as an option. And government should always have ad two plans – a plan for remaining and a plan for exit.
In Jersey, we are more cautious than some places, because our size and constitutional nature means we must take care to protect ourselves against the radical shifts of external markets.
That is why, 18 months prior to the BREXIT Referendum, we set up a Political Oversight Group, to consider the possible outcomes and to have a plan for both of them. The report issued on the Monday following BREXIT had not been written over the weekend as some have suggested, it had been developed in consultation with industry and political stakeholders for over a year.
Jersey has a strong track record of long-term planning and considering risk. The risks of a BREXIT vote were real and we were in a situation where we could not meaningfully influence the outcome. So we remained neutral, and prepared for both eventualities.
Our carefully considered plan is now being used and it is working. In a world of turmoil and widespread uncertainty Jersey’s government, its institutions, its regulators, its companies and most importantly of all, its people have been able to remind themselves that they do live on a granite rock of stability.
The plan we have put in action over the last four weeks has not received a significant amount of media attention, but behind the scenes officials and Ministers have been working extremely hard on behalf of our island to ensure that any downside risks are understood and mitigated as much as possible.
Beyond the risk though, there are also opportunities that are now appearing for a jurisdiction like ours, that is secure, unruffled and stabile. Individuals or institutions reassured by our prudent, long-term approach to planning approach are more interested than ever in working with Jersey.
There have been significant efforts made by the nameless public servants in the Chief Minister’s Office including my own unit of Competition, Digital, Financial Services and Innovation and the Jersey Government London Office as well as our Channel Island office in Brussels and France to secure this positive result so far.
Additionally our regulators the JFSC and the Data Protection Commissioner as well as our promotional agencies, Jersey Finance, Digital Jersey and Jersey Business has all also worked tirelessly to ensure we had a way forward through BREXIT, whatever the outcome.
We are entering a new era of politics, a new era of diplomacy and a new era of opportunity for Jersey. While BREXIT creates challenges, it is also a chance for Jersey to play to its strengths on the global stage. Our job now is to make sure that we make the most of this new world order for the benefit of our home.