News and Insights
8 December 2016
Why is Jersey so frequently seen as being part of the UK and why this misconception should be corrected
Trick question: what, apart from the obvious, is the difference between Jersey (population 100,000 area 45 m²) and Pitcairn (population 49 area 18 m²)?
Answer: for many organisations – even some operating in the Channel Islands who really ought to know better – Pitcairn exists, but Jersey does not.
Where is Jersey on the list?
Allow me to explain. How often have you, as a Jersey resident, done something on-line and been required to state “your details”. You enter your Jersey post code and proceed to the “choose a country” drop down menu. Oh dear – Jersey is nowhere to be found. Jamaica, Jordan and Japan are all present and correct, as is gallant little Pitcairn, but not Jersey. This being a compulsory field you have no option but to enter United Kingdom – and once again the common misapprehension that Jersey is part of the UK is given oxygen. This is plain wrong. It is a Crown Dependency whose autonomy was confirmed centuries before the United Kingdom was even thought of.
The travel companies are lost
This misapprehension is now so widely propagated that one day it will be believed, if it isn’t already. TripAdvisor kindly but wrongly announces that Jersey heads the list of its “Top 10 islands United Kingdom”. EasyJet, BA and Flybe, all offer drop down destination lists referring to Jersey – United Kingdom. Strangely no such confusion prevails when it comes to whipping out the duty free trolley once airborne. Which destination actually in the UK would that be possible for?
The States of Jersey are lost too
Worst of all it is an error much repeated by none other than … the States of Jersey! The States of Jersey Police use the monikerwww.jersey.police.uk. They patiently explain this is necessary to link their I.T. with other British police forces. This is nonsense. The proof is that the Manx Constabulary happily uses www.iompolice.im. I refuse to believe Police HQ in Douglas is therefore stranded clueless in a cross border crime zone ignorant of developments at the Merseyside Police to the east, the PSNI to the west or Police Scotland to the north.
This is not the only example of our own government not knowing where it is. I have received Eventbrite invitations to States sponsored events taking place in St Helier, United Kingdom. The web address for Hautlieu School ends with .uk. (Do they not teach geography there perhaps?) The Jersey Electricity Company is 62% owned by the States but uses JEC.co.uk. Google St Helier Town Hall, Jersey Water or BBC Jersey and you will be offered an address in Jersey, United Kingdom. Locate Jersey once posted uncorrected comments from new residents comparing Jersey favourably with “other places in the UK.”
The private sector
The private sector is little better. Trustfordjersey.co.uk is a recent wince-making arrival and LinkedIn is awash with cheerful souls plying their professions in Jersey, United Kingdom. For much of this the real culprit may be the postcode system. Making Jersey postcodes look just like UK ones was a mistake, and one Bermuda avoided. Deep in a mainframe somewhere must be a chip that sees JE and decides the next line can only be United Kingdom. The States should have used its authority to have that put right years ago.
But does it really matter, you may ask
I contend it does matter, and for at least nine reasons:
- It’s a betrayal of our history, Jersey did not for centuries protect its autonomy just to see it eroded by sheer indifference.
- It’s a political nonsense. Who is our MP in the UK Parliament? There isn’t one of course.
- It’s a political risk. In November 2016 Rupa Huq MP, Shadow Home Office Minister, sought to extend UK legislation as if the States of Jersey was just another of the UK’s devolved assemblies, like those in Cardiff and Edinburgh. Wiser counsel prevailed but by neglecting the symbols of our status we nourish the lie that the UK parliament graciously gave us a measure of self-government which it could one day decide to take back.
- It damages our finance industry. What part of the UK has, or would be allowed, our tax regime or can offer a regulatory regime as well evolved as ours?
- It damages our tourism industry. Jersey has always sold itself on its unique character. Dissolving our identity into that of the UK removes a key USP.
- It could stifle our digital economy. Our autonomy allows us to change rules and embrace technological developments much faster than the UK, but you wouldn’t know it from the way we allow ourselves to be described.
- It’s bad for our culture of government. It can only encourage our civil servants’ fondness for importing solutions from the UK even though small jurisdiction specific solutions would be a far better fit.
- It’s bad management. Successful organisations create and manage strong and consistent brands, Jersey’s brand is adrift.
- Still not convinced? Here is a purely practical point. Many islanders have been disappointed in their dealings with on-line merchants. The information in circulation misleads most merchants into thinking Jersey is part of the UK. VAT reclaim and parcel delivery issues become needlessly confused when merchants learn the deal they thought they were striking with a UK customer is more complicated than they bargained for.
As with most ideas that are sound in principle, describing Jersey correctly will encounter limits in practice. That digital behemoth Apple has been slow to recognise Jersey. Until recently Apple owners in Jersey had to assume a UK alter ego in order to create an account with them. Thanks to the sterling efforts of Digital Jersey that is no longer necessary, but it has come at the cost of adopting the pretence that a JE post code is a UK one. This will, for example, allow JE registered iPhone owners to shop in Apple’s well-furnished UK app store, but they will have to pay VAT for the privilege. Apple is simply too enormous and too heedless of a market of just 100,000 customers to devise a more considered solution.
Others are less indiscriminate. Google long ago set up Google.je to which local users now default should they visit Google.com, thereby rewarding local businesses with improved search engine optimisation. Amazon takes proper cognisance of Jersey and, when dealing on its own account rather than as agent, even deducts VAT.
So what should happen next?
When the new States assembly convenes after this year’s May elections the new Council of Ministers’ agenda should include a polite but firm push back campaign. Here are five steps that could be taken:
- The States must first put their own house in order and clear up the anomalies listed above.
- They might also launch a root and branch review of Jersey’s identifying markers and their use: why is the domain.je, but my social security number starts with JY and my car must display GBJ? To gain recognition a brand needs consistency.
- The States will then have the moral authority to invite big businesses - starting with the transport companies - to correct their mistakes. What is good for tourism and business is after all good for them too. We license their activities here. Describing us correctly can be added to their licence conditions. This is also an excellent opportunity to engage in some of that much discussed co-operation with the States of Guernsey.
- Further afield businesses using software with as a default the term “Jersey, United Kingdom” or a drop down country list that ignores us can receive a friendly message from Jersey, advice on how to make the change and perhaps a modest reward for so doing.
- Finally, the States must now try to bring .je under local control. We register cars, companies, boats, secured loans, charities, business names, aircraft, land… you name it, locally. Why after 20 years is our .je domain still run from Alderney? The States should help local businesses and make .je as cheap and easy to use as .co.uk.
Some will dismiss all this as a fuss about nothing. Because of its potential to harm our economy I don’t think this issue should be ignored any longer. Of course there will always be more pressing demands upon its resources but this is something our government can put right - and should.