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Channel Islands Brussels office opens today, headed by ex-UK ambassador

In the latest example of cross-island cooperation, a new office opens in Brussels today.

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Williams, whose title is director of European affairs, is based in offices in the Regus building at Rond Point Schuman 6, in the heart of the diplomatic district of Brussels.

As reported, the Isle of Man has also announced plans to open a representative office in Brussels, but has not yet provided any additional details nor named anyone to head it up.

Prior to taking on the Jersey and Guernsey job, Williams spent almost 30 years working for the UK Foreign & Commonwealth Office, with postings that have included Oslo, Buenos Aires, Sofia and the UK Permanent Representation to the EU in Brussels.

Williams’s mandate in Brussels will be to ensure that the concerns of Jersey and Guernsey are taken into account by European Union government officials in their drafting of new regulations. He will also be responsible for reporting back to the islands on evolving issues and the mood generally in Brussels and the EU on matters of potential interest.

Senthia Debuyst is the new office’s manager, and for now is handling all correspondence via the following email address: senthia.debuyst@channelislands.be.

Cross-island cooperation

Historic rivals dating back at least to the time of the English Civil War (1642 – 1651), when Jersey sided with the Royalists and Guernsey with the Parliamentarians, Jersey and Guernsey have increasingly sought to work together in an increasingly international business world in which people sometimes struggles to remember which is which.

As noted in a profile on the islands in the July 2010 issue of International Advisermagazine, they are already plugged into the same electricity grid, share a telecoms link with the UK, and enjoy the services of a single BBC television channel.

An effort to market the islands as a group rather than individually to tourists is also fairly well established, with a single website, www.visitchannelislands.com, the centrepieces of the campaign.

Nevertheless, the Jersey-Guernsey rivalry also remains, as entities on both sides of the 30km (18mi) body of water separating them seek to exploit whatever differences that may exist to gain an advantage.

For example, Guernsey alone possess legislation that enables island firms to administer QROPS for former UK residents who live in a third country, although Jersey has said it is planning to follow suit in 2011. For its part, Jersey has such unique selling points as a foundations law, which Guernsey does not.

Meantime, as Graham Parrott, a Guernsey-based Ernst & Young tax partner, told IA last year, there exists a potential concern for Guernsey if they two islands "become too homogenous [in the eyes of the outside world] but are still in fact competitors", since Guernsey, being the smaller jurisdiction, could stand to lose out.

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