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The Crown Dependencies are three offshore island territories in the British Islands that are self-governing possessions of the British Crown: the Bailiwick of Guernsey and the Bailiwick of Jersey, both located in the English Channel and together known as the Channel Islands, and the Isle of Man in the Irish Sea between Great Britain and Ireland. They are not parts of the United Kingdom (UK) nor are they British Overseas Territories. They have the status of "territories for which the United Kingdom is responsible", rather than sovereign states. As a result, they are not member states of the Commonwealth of Nations. However, they do have relationships with the Commonwealth and other international organizations, and are members of the British–Irish Council. They have their own teams in the Commonwealth Games.
|Anthem: "God Save the King"
|Isle of Man
|768 km2 (297 sq mi)
• 2021 Census estimate
|252,719 (exc. Sark)
|Pound sterling (£) (GBP)
• Summer (DST)
As the Crown Dependencies are not sovereign states, the power to pass legislation affecting the islands ultimately rests with the King-in-Council (though this power is rarely exercised without the consent of the dependencies, and the right to do so is disputed). However, they each have their own legislative assembly, with power to legislate on many local matters with the assent of the Crown (Privy Council, or, in the case of the Isle of Man, in certain circumstances the lieutenant-governor). In Jersey and the Isle of Man, the head of government is called the chief minister. In Guernsey, the head representative of the committee-based government is the President of the Policy and Resources Committee.
The term 'Crown Dependencies' has been disputed by Gavin St Pier, former Chief Minister of Guernsey. He argues that the term was an administrative invention of Whitehall, which incorrectly implies that the Islands are dependent upon the Crown, and advocates instead the use of the term 'Crown Dominion'.
List of Crown Dependencies
|Title of monarch
|King in right of the Bailiwick
|78 km2 (30 sq mi)
|Saint Peter Port
|La Seigneurie (de facto;
Sark does not have a capital city)
|King in right of Jersey
|118.2 km2 (46 sq mi)
|Isle of Man
|Lord of Mann
|572 km2 (221 sq mi)
Isle of Man
|Isle of Man Airport
- the Bailiwick of Guernsey, comprising the islands of Alderney, Brecqhou, Guernsey, Herm, Jethou, Lihou, and Sark;
- the Bailiwick of Jersey, comprising the island of Jersey and uninhabited islets such as the Écréhous and Minquiers.
Each Bailiwick is a Crown dependency and each is headed by a Bailiff, with a Lieutenant Governor representing the Crown in each Bailiwick. Each Bailiwick has its own legal and healthcare systems and its own separate immigration policy, with "local status" in one Bailiwick having no validity in the other. The two Bailiwicks exercise bilateral double taxation treaties. Since 1961, the Bailiwicks have had separate courts of appeal, but generally, the Bailiff of each Bailiwick has been appointed to serve on the panel of appellate judges for the other Bailiwick.
Bailiwick of Guernsey
The Bailiwick of Guernsey comprises three separate jurisdictions:
- Alderney, including smaller surrounding uninhabited islands.
- Guernsey, which also includes the nearby islands of Herm, Jethou, Lihou, and other smaller uninhabited islands.
- Sark, which also includes the nearby island of Brecqhou, and other smaller uninhabited islands.
The parliament of Guernsey is the States of Deliberation, the parliament of Sark is called the Chief Pleas, and the parliament of Alderney is called the States of Alderney. The three parliaments together can also approve joint Bailiwick-wide legislation that applies in those parts of the Bailiwick whose parliaments approve it. There are no political parties in any of the parliaments; candidates stand for election as independents.
Bailiwick of Jersey
The Bailiwick of Jersey consists of the island of Jersey and a number of surrounding uninhabited islands.
The parliament is the States Assembly, the first known mention of which is in a document of 1497. The States of Jersey Law 2005 introduced the post of Chief Minister of Jersey, abolished the Bailiff's power of dissent to a resolution of the States and the Lieutenant Governor's power of veto over a resolution of the States, and established that any Order in Council or Act of the United Kingdom proposed to apply to Jersey must be referred to the States so that the States can express their views on it. There are few political parties, as candidates generally stand for election as independents.
Isle of Man
The Isle of Man's Tynwald claims to be the world's oldest parliament in continuous existence, dating back to 979. (However, it does not claim to be the oldest parliament, as Iceland's Althing dates back to 930.) It consists of a popularly elected House of Keys and an indirectly elected Legislative Council, which may sit separately or jointly to consider pieces of legislation, which, when passed into law, are known as "Acts of Tynwald". Candidates mostly stand for election to the Keys as independents, rather than being selected by political parties. There is a Council of Ministers headed by a chief minister.
Unlike the other Crown Dependencies, the Isle of Man has a Common Purse Agreement with the United Kingdom.
According to the 1973 Kilbrandon Report, the Crown Dependencies are 'like miniature states'. According to a 2010 Commons Justice Committee, they are independent from the UK and from each other and their relationship is with the Crown. The UK's responsibilities derive from that fact.
All "insular" legislation has to receive the approval of the "King in Council", in effect, the Privy Council in London. Certain types of domestic legislation in the Isle of Man and The Bailiwick of Guernsey, however, may be signed into law by the Lieutenant Governor, using delegated powers, without having to pass through the Privy Council. In Jersey, provisional legislation of an administrative nature may be adopted by means of triennial regulations (renewable after three years), without requiring the assent of the Privy Council. Much legislation, in practice, is effected by means of secondary legislation under the authority of prior laws or Orders in Council.
A unique constitutional position has arisen in the Channel Islands as successive monarchs have confirmed the liberties and privileges of the Bailiwicks, often referring to the so-called Constitutions of King John, a legendary document supposed to have been granted by King John in the aftermath of 1204. Governments of the Bailiwicks have generally tried to avoid testing the limits of the unwritten constitution by avoiding conflict with British governments. Following the restoration of King Charles II, who had spent part of his exile in Jersey, the Channel Islands were given the right to set their own customs duties, referred to by the Jersey Legal French term as impôts.
The monarch is represented by a Lieutenant Governor in each Crown dependency, but this post is largely ceremonial. Since 2010 the Lieutenant Governors of each Crown dependency have been recommended to the Crown by a panel in each respective Crown dependency; this replaced the previous system of the appointments being made by the Crown on the recommendation of UK ministers. In 2005, it was decided in the Isle of Man to replace the Lieutenant Governor with a Crown Commissioner, but this decision was reversed before it was implemented.
The Crown in the Isle of Man
"The Crown" is defined differently in each Crown Dependency. Legislation of the Isle of Man defines the "Crown in right of the Isle of Man" as being separate from the "Crown in right of the United Kingdom". In the Isle of Man the British monarch is styled Lord of Mann, a title variously held by Norse, Scottish and English kings and nobles (the English nobles in feudality to the English Crown) until it was revested into the British monarchy in 1765. The title "Lord" is today used irrespective of the gender of the person who holds it.
The Crown in the Channel Islands
The Channel Islands are part of the territory annexed by the Duchy of Normandy in 933 from the Duchy of Brittany. This territory was added to the grant of land given in settlement by the King of France in 911 to the Viking raiders who had sailed up the Seine almost to the walls of Paris. William the Conqueror, Duke of Normandy, claimed the title King of England in 1066, following the death of Edward the Confessor, and secured the claim through the Norman conquest of England. Subsequent marriages between Kings of England and French nobles meant that Kings of England had title to more French lands than the King of France. When the King of France asserted his feudal right of patronage, the then-King of England, King John, fearing he would be imprisoned should he attend, failed to fulfill his obligation.
In 1204, the title and lands of the Duchy of Normandy and his other French possessions were stripped from King John of England by the King of France. The Channel Islands remained in the possession of the King of England, who ruled them as Duke of Normandy until the Treaty of Paris in 1259. John's son, Henry III, renounced the title of Duke of Normandy by that treaty, and none of his successors ever revived it. The Channel Islands continued to be governed by the Kings of England as French fiefs, distinct from Normandy, until the Hundred Years' War, during which they were definitively separated from France. At no time did the Channel Islands form part of the Kingdom of England, and they remained legally separate, though under the same monarch, through the subsequent unions of England with Wales (1536), Scotland (1707) and Ireland (1801).
Charles III reigns over the Channel Islands directly, and not by virtue of his role as monarch of the United Kingdom. No specific title is associated with his role as monarch of the Channel Islands. The monarch has been described, in Jersey, as the "King in right of Jersey", and in legislation as the "Sovereign of the Bailiwick of Jersey" and "Sovereign in right of the Bailiwick of Jersey".
In Jersey, statements in the 21st century of the constitutional position by the Law Officers of the Crown define it as the "Crown in right of Jersey", with all Crown land in the Bailiwick of Jersey belonging to the Crown in right of Jersey and not to the Crown Estate of the United Kingdom. In Guernsey, legislation refers to the "Crown in right of the Bailiwick", and the Law Officers of the Crown of Guernsey submitted that "The Crown in this context ordinarily means the Crown in right of the république of the Bailiwick of Guernsey" and that this comprises "the collective governmental and civic institutions, established by and under the authority of the Monarch, for the governance of these Islands, including the States of Guernsey and legislatures in the other Islands, the Royal Court and other courts, the Lieutenant Governor, Parish authorities, and the Crown acting in and through the Privy Council." This constitutional concept is also worded as the "Crown in right of the Bailiwick of Guernsey".
Distinction from Overseas Territories
Crown Dependencies and British Overseas Territories (BOTs) share a similar geopolitical status. They are both categories of self-governing territories which fall under British sovereignty (the Head of State being the King of the United Kingdom) and for which the UK is responsible internationally. Neither Crown Dependencies nor BOTs are part of the UK and neither send representatives to the UK Parliament.
However, Crown Dependencies are distinct from BOTs. Unlike BOTs, which are remnants of the British Empire, the Crown Dependencies have a much older relationship with the UK, springing from their status as 'feudatory kingdoms' subject to the English Crown. The self-governing status of the BOTs evolved through Acts of Parliament and the creation of fairly homogeneous political structures. On the other hand, the political systems of the Crown Dependencies evolved in an ad hoc manner, resulting in particular and unique political structures in each dependency.
Relationship with the UK
The United Kingdom, Crown Dependencies and British Overseas Territories collectively form 'one, undivided realm' under the British monarchy. Crown Dependencies have the international status of "territories for which the United Kingdom is responsible" rather than sovereign states. The relationship between the governments of the Crown Dependencies and the UK is "one of mutual respect and support, i.e. a partnership". There is a significant gap between the official and operational relationship between the UK and the islands.
Until 2001, responsibility for the UK Government's relationships with the Crown dependencies rested with the Home Office, but it was then transferred first to the Lord Chancellor's Department, then to the Department for Constitutional Affairs, and finally to the Ministry of Justice. In 2010, the Ministry of Justice stated that relationships with the Crown Dependencies are the responsibility of the United Kingdom Government as a whole, with the Ministry of Justice holding responsibility for the constitutional relationship and other ministries engaging with their opposite numbers in the Crown Dependencies according to their respective policy areas.
The UK Government is solely responsible for defence and international representation (although, in accordance with 2007 framework agreements, the UK has elected not to act internationally on behalf of the Crown Dependencies without prior consultation). The Crown Dependencies are within the Common Travel Area and apply the same visa policy as the UK, but each Crown dependency has responsibility for its own customs and immigration services.
The constitutional and cultural proximity of the islands to the UK means that there are shared institutions and organisations. The BBC, for example, has local radio stations in the Channel Islands, and also a website run by a team based in the Isle of Man (which is included in BBC North West). Similarly, ITV Channel Television is a franchise in the UK's ITV network, while the Isle of Man falls within the ITV Granada franchise area. While the islands now assume responsibility for their own post and telecommunications, they continue to participate in the UK telephone numbering plan, and they have adopted postcode systems that are compatible with that of the UK.
The Crown Dependencies, together with the United Kingdom, are collectively known as the British Islands. Since the British Nationality Act 1981 came into effect, they have been treated as part of the United Kingdom for British nationality law purposes. However, each Crown dependency maintains local controls over housing and employment, with special rules applying to British citizens without specified connections to that Crown dependency (as well as to non-British citizens).
On 15 May 2023, the sixteen heraldic shields of the British Overseas Territories and the three coats of arms of the Crown Dependencies were 'immortalised' in two new stained glass windows unveiled in the Speaker's House at the New Palace of Westminster. The House of Commons Speaker, Sir Lindsay Hoyle, said: 'The two windows represent part of our United Kingdom family'.
Before 1950, the islands were considered part of the British metropolitan territory. In 1950, a declaration was agreed such that the three territories would henceforth be each considered distinct from the UK and each other for the purposes of international laws.: 19
In 2007–2008, each Crown Dependency and the UK signed agreements that established frameworks for the development of the international identity of each Crown Dependency. Among the points clarified in the agreements were that:
- The UK has no democratic accountability in and for the Crown Dependencies, which are governed by their own democratically elected assemblies;
- The UK will not act internationally on behalf of the Crown Dependencies without prior consultation;
- Each Crown Dependency has an international identity that is different from that of the UK;
- The UK supports the principle of each Crown Dependency further developing its international identity;
- The UK recognises that the interests of each Crown Dependency may differ from those of the UK, and the UK will seek to represent any differing interests when acting in an international capacity; and
- the UK and each Crown Dependency will work together to resolve or clarify any differences that may arise between their respective interests.
While the Parliament of the United Kingdom has the power to legislate for the Crown Dependencies without prior consultation, the United Kingdom is expected to seek permission from the dependencies before doing so.
Generally speaking, the British government will only extend international agreements to the Crown Dependencies with their permission. Under international law, the British government is responsible for ensuring the dependencies comply with any treaties that extend to them.
The United Kingdom Parliament has power to legislate for the Islands, but Acts of Parliament do not extend to the Islands automatically, but only by express mention or necessary implication [...] 'it can be said that a constitutional convention has been established whereby Parliament does not legislate for the islands without their consent on domestic matters'.— Baroness Hale, R (Barclay) v Secy of State for Justice  3 WLR 1142, at para 12.
Acts of the UK Parliament do not usually apply to the Channel Islands and the Isle of Man, unless explicitly stated. UK legislation does not ordinarily extend to them without their consent. For a UK Act to extend otherwise than by an Order in Council is now very unusual. The States of Jersey Law 2005 and subsequently the 2019 amended version of The Reform (Guernsey) Law, 1948, established that all Acts of Parliament and Orders in Council which have application to either island were to be referred to their respective States assemblies for debate before registration in their Royal Court.
When deemed advisable, Acts of Parliament may be extended to the islands by means of an Order in Council (thus giving the UK Government some responsibility for good governance in the islands). An example of this was the Television Act 1954, which was extended to the Channel Islands, so as to create a local ITV franchise, known as Channel Television. By constitutional convention this is only done at the request of the insular authorities, and has become a rare option (thus giving the insular authorities themselves the responsibility for good governance in the islands); the islands usually prefer nowadays to pass their own versions of laws giving effect to international treaties.
Each dependency retains its own distinct law and legal system. The Channel Islands' law systems are founded in the traditions of Norman law. For all three states, there is a right of judicial appeal to The Crown via the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council, whose judgements are binding once approved and promulgated by The King via an Order-in-Council.
Westminster retains the right to legislate for the islands against their will as a last resort, but this is also rarely exercised, and may, according to legal opinion from the Attorney-General of Jersey, have fallen into desuetude — although the Department for Constitutional Affairs did not accept this argument. The Marine, &c., Broadcasting (Offences) Act 1967 was one recent piece of legislation extended to the Isle of Man against the wishes of Tynwald.
There are many highly authoritative assertions of Parliament's sovereignty over Jersey, such as the 1861 Civil Commissioners. According to the Kilbrandon Report, the long-standing convention against Parliament intervening in domestic matters did not limit Parliament's authority to legislate for the Crown Dependencies without consent. Baroness Hale further asserted this legal opinion in 2014 (quotation above), though she did not hear arguments from Crown Dependency governments in that case.
Conversely, Jeffrey Jowell argues that Parliament's powers are 'of last resort' and do not therefore constitute paramount power to intervene in the Dependencies' internal affairs. He argues that as the powers have always been used within the limits of their justification, these have become constitutional law. Henry John Stephen argued that, as the Duchy of Normandy conquered England and its territory has never been annexed into England, the level of parliamentary sovereignty exercised elsewhere in the British Empire may not apply to the Channel Islands.
The UK Government has a monopoly on advising how the royal prerogative – such as giving royal assent to Channel Islands' legislation – should be exercised in the Crown Dependencies. Gavin St Pier, former Chief Minister of Guernsey, has called in 2023 for the Channel Islands to reconsider their constitutional relationship with the UK, 'making us less susceptible to whimsical breach of conventions should the UK continue to convulse politically'. He called for the Islands to have more power of the exercise of the royal prerogative by their appointment of Privy Counsellors.
While their constitutional status bears some resemblance to that of the Commonwealth realms, the Crown Dependencies are not independent members of the Commonwealth of Nations. They participate in the Commonwealth of Nations by virtue of their relationship with the United Kingdom, and participate in various Commonwealth institutions in their own right. For example, all three participate in the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association and the Commonwealth Games.
All three Crown Dependencies regard the existing situation as unsatisfactory and have lobbied for change. The States of Jersey have called on the British Foreign Secretary to request that the Commonwealth Heads of Government "consider granting associate membership to Jersey and the other Crown Dependencies as well as any other territories at a similarly advanced stage of autonomy". Jersey has proposed that it be accorded "self-representation in all Commonwealth meetings; full participation in debates and procedures, with a right to speak where relevant and the opportunity to enter into discussions with those who are full members; and no right to vote in the Ministerial or Heads of Government meetings, which is reserved for full members". The States of Guernsey and the Government of the Isle of Man have made calls of a similar nature for a more integrated relationship with the Commonwealth, including more direct representation and enhanced participation in Commonwealth organisations and meetings, including Commonwealth Heads of Government Meetings. The Chief Minister of the Isle of Man has said: "A closer connection with the Commonwealth itself would be a welcome further development of the Island's international relationships"
This section needs to be updated. (February 2023)
The Crown Dependencies have never been EU member states, including during the period when the UK was. During that time, their relationship with the EU was governed by Protocol 3 of the European Communities Act 1972. The Dependencies were part of the EU customs territory (though only the Isle of Man was in the VAT area) and took part in the free movements of goods, but not the free movement of persons, services or capital. The Common Agricultural Policy of the EU never applied to the Crown Dependencies, and their citizens never took part in elections to the European Parliament. Although they were still European citizens, British citizens who had a connection to the Crown Dependencies only were not entitled to freedom of movement rights.
With the Brexit negotiations, the House of Lords produced a report titled "Brexit: the Crown Dependencies", which stated that the "UK Government must continue to fulfil its constitutional obligations to represent the interests of the Crown Dependencies in international relations, even where these differ from those of the UK, both during the Brexit negotiations and beyond." In the Great Repeal Bill white paper published on 30 March 2017 the UK government stated, "The Government is committed to engaging with the Crown Dependencies, Gibraltar and the other Overseas Territories as we leave the EU.": ch.5
The most contentious Brexit issue was an upset to the arrangement of fishing rights of fishermen from France, Jersey, or Guernsey who wished to fish in the territorial waters of a different jurisdiction; proof of historic fishing in the jurisdiction was required in order to obtain a fishing permit, but all communications on the matter had to be routed via national or EU officials in London, Paris, or Brussels, leading to delays. This was resolved after officials in the affected French regions were allowed to communicate directly to counterparts in Guernsey and Jersey.
The UK requirement for EU citizens to present passports to enter the Common Travel Area resulted in a drop of day visitors to Jersey in particular. This issue was resolved in 2022 when Jersey (with UK approval) began to allow French nationals to enter the bailiwick on day trips using just their national ID card. Guernsey followed suit.
Common Travel Area
All three Crown Dependencies participate in an open borders area, along with the United Kingdom and the Republic of Ireland. An informal memorandum of understanding exists between the member countries of the Common Travel Area (CTA) whereby the internal borders of each country are expected to have minimal controls, if any, and can normally be crossed by British and Irish citizens with minimal identity documents (with certain exceptions). Under Irish law, Manx people and Channel Islanders – who were not entitled to take advantage of the European Union's freedom of movement provisions – are exempt from immigration control and immune from deportation in the Republic of Ireland.
In May, 2019 the British and Irish governments signed a Memorandum of Understanding in an effort to secure the rights of British and Irish citizens after Brexit. The document was signed in London, England before a meeting of the British-Irish Intergovernmental Conference, putting the rights of both countries' citizens, that were already in place under an informal agreement, on a more secure footing.
The agreement, which is the culmination of over two years' work of both governments, means the rights of both countries' citizens are protected after Brexit whilst also ensuring that the Republic of Ireland can continue to meet its obligations under European Union law. The agreement took effect on 31 January 2020 when the United Kingdom left the European Union. The maintenance of the CTA involves considerable cooperation on immigration matters between the British and Irish authorities.
- Each dependency produces their own local issue coins and notes and accept all UK notes.
- On the Chanel island the monacrch is informally known as the Duke of Normandy. The title is, however, not used in formal government publications, and, as a matter of Channel Islands law, does not exist.
- St Peter Port is also the de facto capital of the whole Bailiwick