That is the decision that could face deputies if Guernsey is to be included in any post-Brexit trade deal between the UK and the European Union.
The price for Guernsey being part of any potential trade deal between London and Brussels could be ‘doing something’ in relation to fishing, according to senior States official Jo Reeve, with the Assembly potentially having to weigh the balance between the two issues – depending on the outcome of negotiations, with the UK Brexit transition period ending next month.
Mr Reeve, director of international relations and constitutional affairs, set out the situation at a Brexit breakfast seminar organised by the Guernsey Chamber of Commerce.
He heads a dedicated Brexit team within the States that has been working on the myriad issues – to secure the Bailiwick’s interests – since before the 2016 referendum in the UK that saw British voters opt to leave the EU.
Addressing the packed event, he said that the island has had to engage with the EU’s political approach around fishing as part of that Brexit work.
‘The EU sort of said: “Well, if the UK wants a trade agreement it’s going to have to do certain things”,’ said Mr Reeve.
‘The first is fishing, and that’s very much a political thing.
‘It’s not really an economic thing.
‘It’s a very small part of the economy for us. It’s a very small part of the economy for the UK.
‘It’s a very small part of the economy overall for the EU.
‘It’s very important politically for some member states but not all member states.
‘The EU’s objective is a very hard-line one. It’s a very maximalist kind of approach but they want to try and keep things the same in terms of fishing.’
The Brexit expert continued: ‘The UK in contrast wants to assert itself as an independent coastal state.
‘It wants to have as minimum EU access in its waters as it can.
‘It wants to try and grab as much quota as it can.
‘So there’s a clashing of two, starting poles apart, and no one really wants to move and meet in the middle.
‘So we’ve had to engage in that, and the price tag part of having a trade agreement equally applies to us in respect to fishing because of politics.
‘There’s an expectation that we would do something on fisheries access in order to get a goods relationship and that’s just part of the trade-off that the EU expects.
‘So we’re trying to engage with that to see what minimum thing we could do in order to get the maximum thing that we can and see whether that balance is worth it.
‘That’s again a test that the States is going to have to decide.
‘At the end of the day when there’s an overall package, there’ll be something on fishing there, something on goods there – is that a fair deal?
‘Yes or no? And that decision will have to made.’
n Other scenarios beside a UK-EU deal could include an agreement that does not include Guernsey, or no deal at all.
A range of preparations have been made for these outcomes, including in relation to trading.
Depending on the outcome, it could necessitate additional Assembly sittings – although a Christmas Day sitting is unlikely.
‘The schedule for States sittings is a matter for the presiding officer and the Assembly.
‘Additional sittings in December in order to deal with matters related to the end of the transition period may be needed,’ said Mr Reeve.
‘However, while the number of days available for any such meeting/s decreases by the day, it is extremely unlikely a sitting would be held on Christmas Day itself.’