Where is Jersey? Location of the Channel island, map - and is it part of the UK or France

Jersey is certainly an interesting place, but what is the history of the island, and why has it been in the news lately?

Royal Navy ships are patrolling the waters around Jersey amid an ongoing row between the island and France over post-Brexit fishing rights.

HMS Severn and HMS Tamar have been deployed by the UK Government to “monitor the situation”, and Agence France-Presse reports France has dispatched two patrol vessels as dozens of French fishing boats gathered near the island.

The row erupted after the Jersey government said French fishing boats would be required to obtain a licence to fish in the island’s waters under the terms of the UK’s post-Brexit trade deal with the EU which came into force last week.

The seafront in St Helier, the capital of Jersey (Photo: OLI SCARFF/AFP via Getty Images)
The seafront in St Helier, the capital of Jersey (Photo: OLI SCARFF/AFP via Getty Images)
The seafront in St Helier, the capital of Jersey (Photo: OLI SCARFF/AFP via Getty Images)

It caused anger in French fishing communities, which complained boats which had operated there for years were suddenly having their access to the fisheries restricted.

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On 5 May, the UK and Jersey both hit out at “disproportionate” threats from France after warnings that electricity to the island could be cut amid the dispute.

Here is everything you need to know about it.

This image shows the position of Jersey in relation to France and Great Britain (Image: Kim Mogg/NationalWorld)
This image shows the position of Jersey in relation to France and Great Britain (Image: Kim Mogg/NationalWorld)
This image shows the position of Jersey in relation to France and Great Britain (Image: Kim Mogg/NationalWorld)

What is Jersey?

Jersey is an island and self-governing British Crown Dependency near the coast of north-west France.

It is the largest of the Channel Islands with an area of around 46 square miles. Approximately 107,800 people live there.

Jersey is a self-governing parliamentary democracy – it has its own parliament called the States of Jersey – and is not part of the United Kingdom, though the UK is constitutionally responsible for its defence.

The island has its own financial, legal and judicial systems, but uses English as its main language and Pound sterling as its primary currency; the Queen of the UK is the Queen of Jersey as well.

Jersey has an international identity separate from that of the UK, though shares many cultural commonalities with Britain – road laws require driving on the left, there is access to British television and newspapers and a school curriculum following that of England.

But being so close to France and sharing history with the European nation, the island also has a strong Norman-French culture.

An ancient Norman language called Jèrriais is still in partial use by around 2,000 speakers, and there are many place names with French or Norman origins.

Where is Jersey?

Jersey lies off the coast of north-west France.

Just 14 miles from Normandy’s Cotentin peninsula – the spit of land northeast of Brittany that juts north-westward into the English Channel towards Great Britain – it is much closer to France than it is to the UK.

The closest part of the UK to the island is approximately the Isle of Portland – the southernmost point of the county of Dorset – which lies around 90 miles from Jersey.

In terms of size, Jersey is around nine miles from east to west and five from north to south, lending it the affectionate nickname, "nine-by-five".

The island can have hot weather in summer and normally mild weather in winter; it is generally sunnier than England, but it rains more as well.

What is its history?

Historical records show that people lived in Jersey as far back as Palaeolithic times, when it is thought the island was connected to mainland France before the sea rose to make it an island.

As to who owns it, control of Jersey has been contested numerous times throughout history, but the first and perhaps most significant change of hands came in 1066, when Normandy (of which Jersey was still a part of) became part of England.

In the 1200s, England’s King John lost all of his territories in mainland Normandy to King Philip II Augustus of France, but was able to retain possession of Jersey and the other Channel Islands.

In 1259, the Treaty of Paris saw the English king formally surrender his claim to the islands, and since then, they have been self-governing territories of the British crown.

But that hasn’t stopped attempts to recapture the islands.

In 1781, Jersey was invaded by the French in the Battle of Jersey, an historic yet short-lived skirmish that is thought to have only lasted 30 minutes.

Just over 150 years later, during the Second World War, the island was controlled by the Nazis, but it was freed on 9 May 1945. These events are still celebrated on Jersey with Liberation Day, the national day of the island.

Is it a tax haven?

Many people would refer to Jersey as a “tax haven”, as because the island has low taxes.

Before 2008, Jersey had no VAT, leading to companies like Amazon taking advantage of this to establish tax-free fulfilment industries from which products could be shipped from Jersey. This loophole was closed by UK authorities in 2012.

The island was previously on the EU’s tax haven blacklist, but since March 2019, it no longer features.

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