As presented in our last updates, the WTC Rennes Bretagne’s Franco-British Business Club evolved recently into a Cross Channel work group, “The TransManche Development Group,” which seeks out opportunities to strengthen trade and economic ties between Brittany (France), the English Channel Islands and the UK.
This work group is composed of key institutions and local stakeholders such as ports, airports, chambers of commerce, municipalities, business schools, universities and local clusters in Brittany (France) and in the English Channel Islands of Jersey and Guernsey. This workgroup will soon be up and running in the UK’s Solent District (Southampton, Portsmouth and the Isle of Wight).
As mentioned in our last update, thanks to the TransManche Development Group’s multilateral efforts, a multi-million pound food distributing company based in Jersey has recently done several trials to import goods directly from France through the port of Saint-Malo (located much closer to Jersey than Portsmouth in the UK) instead of importing them from the UK. The results were conclusive: cheaper transit costs and an improved shelf life for goods with similar (if not better) quality. As a result, companies in other industries (construction, digital, retail etc…) are now considering testing that new route for their imports and exports.
Lobbying for the creation of an air link between the city of Rennes (Brittany, France) and the islands of Jersey and Guernsey has been an ongoing effort on all sides since the creation of this workgroup. The Rennes airport connects Rennes with major cities in France and Europe including Geneva, Amsterdam, Madrid, Barcelona and Frankfurt. It currently handles 750,000 passengers per year with plans to expand. The press in the English Channel Islands has picked up on that momentum and has published several news features:
– ITV News : Burgess in Brittany, 4 September 2019
– ITV Report :Bailiwicks braced for ‘knife-edge’ Brexit vote, 18 October 2019
– Guernsey Press : Rennes air link one of main objectives for new group, 30 October 2019
The Jersey Chamber has also sent recently a questionnaire to hundreds of local businesses around Jersey to see whether the creation of a new route from jersey to Rennes can be profitable and sustainable. The first responses seem to be conclusive!
Furthermore, other opportunities have been identified in the education/training sectors. A vocational training institution in Rennes has already begun the process to send trainees to Jersey and Guernsey. Rennes’ prestigious business school, which offers degrees for English speaking students, is now starting to explore new ties with Jersey. Other universities and higher education institutions will soon follow…
As the Jersey Chamber puts it: “Renowned for its innovation in media, telecommunications and information technologies, Rennes is undergoing huge development and growth, fueled by its connectivity to Paris.” Not only is Rennes able to offer local businesses in Jersey and Guernsey “new training and skill resources, Rennes, as the capital of Brittany, is well positioned for developing trade and business within its region and the rest of France.”
In their quest in finding new and improved ways in and out of the European Union post-Brexit, the business community in Jersey and Guernsey see Rennes as a key trading hub. Conversely, the Breton business community sees Jersey and Guernsey as brand new markets located at Rennes’ doorstep.
The next few months will see the incorporation of the Solent district (Southampton, Portsmouth and the Isle of Wight) in this work group. As most of Jersey and Guernsey’s imports currently transit through Portsmouth, including this district seems only logical and necessary.