As part of the UK Government’s Strategic Defence Review it is believed that British Prime Minister David Cameron could have raised the future of UK defence commitments to the Channel Islands when he met with French President Nicolas Sarkozy on 17th February last. The meeting followed hard on the heels of the government of Jersey having hosted a French delegation on 6th February when one of the matters up for discussion was Jersey’s role as an international finance centre.
The UK Government is under pressure to make savings in public expenditure and is looking at a number of options to make cost savings. Although the Channel Islands, comprising principally the two larger islands of Guernsey and Jersey and the two smaller islands of Alderney and Sark, are not part of the UK, nor members of the European Union, as matters stand, the defence of the Channel Islands remains a UK responsibility.
For his part, President Sarkozy has made no secret of his desire to see a clampdown on international tax havens. The French President may have warmed to the idea of France initially taking over responsibility for the defence of the Channel Islands from the UK. This could be a first step towards wooing the Channel Islanders towards becoming a department of metropolitan France.
For the French President, although taking over defence of Les îles Anglo-Normandes (as the Channel Islands are known in France) would involve a small increase in French defence spending, the incorporation of the Channel Islands as part of France would give a huge impetus to the French President’s campaign to put an end to international tax havens.
Geography and History
Map of Channel Islands in relation to coast of Normandy in France
Aotearoa - Wikimedia Commons
As the French name for the Channel Islands implies, geographically, the islands are part of Normandy. The islands represent higher outcrops of the nearby Cotentin peninsula in the Manche department of France and were formed when what is now the English Channel flooded after the last Ice Age.
The Channel Islands were settled around the 10th century A.D. by the same Vikings – Norsemen – who gave their name to Normandy. Some in Normandy regard the Channel Islands as France’s ‘lost’ islands are keen to see Jersey and Guernsey as part of the French Republic.
Mixed Reactions in Normandy & Channel Islands
Jean-Claude Pocheteau, who regularly takes holidaymakers on fishing trips out of Granville in Manche department said, “I sail past the islands regularly. I call them the Iles Normands for they are truly Norman, part of my homeland. It matters not that they speak a different language and pay less tax than me. I want to welcome my brothers and sisters back to the bosom of France.”
On the Channel Islands themselves, there was less enthusiasm for the idea. A resident of Saint Helier in Jersey, Avril Cabillaud, who can trace Norman ancestry on her mother’s side and whose father came from Nether Wallop in Hampshire said, “I don’t understand how David Cameron can campaign to keep Scotland in the UK yet when it comes to us here on the Channel Islands, he’d sell us down the river. I just wish we had someone like the Scottish National Party’s Alex Salmon to tell Cameron to go jump in the lake.”
There were indications this week that plans to integrate the Channel Islands as the fourth department of the region of Bass-Normandie, joining Manche, Orne and Calvados departments, are further advanced than many had assumed.
It believed that the French postal service, La Poste, has been experiencing difficulties with the three digit postal/department codes which had been allocated to French overseas departments such as Mayotte and Guadeloupe. The French government has apparently bowed to pressure from La Poste for all departments to have a two digit code. The problem is that there remain only four unallocated two digit codes (96-99). To solve this, La Poste has been experimenting with alphanumeric codes so that the two character code system can be maintained.
As part of these arrangements, with the agreement of the French government, La Poste is thought to have already earmarked the department number/postcode A1 to the Channel Islands in preparation for the Channel islands eventually becoming part of France.