20th September 2013

Guernsey and Jersey considered merging

Two heads are better than one – and maybe two islands are better than one, too. There’s long been a measure of friendly rivalry between Guernsey and Jersey, but authoroties on each island put some serious consideration to putting it firmly behind them – on an official basis.

Their motivation was purely practical: the islands both have thriving financial industries. Was it really worth them competing with one another, asked Jersey Chief Minister, Ian Gorst. He explained to the Financial Times that the Channel Islands are already seen as a single entity by many in the UK and Europe anyway.

Guernsey and Jersey share a lot of their common political and administrative infrastructure. They have a single information commissioner and airports regulator. New recruits to the islands’ police forces also train together.

However, the islands’ leaders saw scope for further reducing areas of duplication. One such example was in prisoner accommodation, with each of them needing to provide accommodation for both male and female inmates. Splitting them up, with one gender on each island, would seem to make sense.

Centuries of rivalry

Although the rivalry between the two bailiwicks may now be fairly benign, it was once more serious – and deadly.

During the English civil war, the people of Guernsey supported the parliamentarians’ cause while Jersey remained loyal to the king, effectively putting the two islands at war with one another.

However, Sir Peter Osborne, Governor of Guernsey at the time, had other ideas. He and the other occupants of Castle Cornet took the same view as Jersey, declaring for the king. This effectively made them the cuckoo in Guernsey’s nest, and the castle came under siege.

The structure proved itself well up to the job for which it had been designed. It withstood the onslaught for eight years before finally, in 1651, the occupants were forced to surrender.


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