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British Crown Dependencies

Crown Dependencies are the Bailiwick of Jersey, the Bailiwick of Guernsey and the Isle of Man. Within the Bailiwick of Guernsey there are three separate jurisdictions: Guernsey (which includes the islands of Herm and Jethou); Alderney; and Sark (which includes the island of Brecqhou). Guernsey and Jersey were part of the Duchy of Normandy when Duke William became King William I of England following his conquest of England in 1066. They later became subject to the English Crown. The Isle of Man came under the English Crown in the 14th Century following periods under the Kings of Norway and Scotland.

The Crown Dependencies are not part of the UK but are self-governing dependencies of the Crown. They have their own directly-elected legislative assemblies, administrative, fiscal and legal systems and their own courts of law. The Crown Dependencies are not represented in the UK Parliament.

The entrance to the English Channel (la Manche), about a hundred miles wide between the Land's End in Cornwall and the island of Ushant, near Brest, retains that width, with a nearly easterly bearing, for a distance of 100 miles. From Start Point, in Devonshire, the coast of England recedes northwards; and from the opposite land, in Brittany, the French coast recedes southwards rather abruptly, so that the width of the Channel is increased to 150 miles.

At a distance of about fifty miles more to the east, near Mont St. Michel, in Normandy, the French coast abruptly bends round to the north, and continues in that direction for about eighty miles, terminating at Cape la Hague; while the English land, rounding to the south-east somewhat gradually, terminates in Portland Bill, almost exactly opposite. The distance between Prance and England, or the width of the Channel between these two points of land, is thus narrowed to little more than fifty miles.

It is in this wide expanse of the Channel, and within the deep recess or elbow of land formed by part of the coasts of Brittany and Normandy, opposite West Bay on the south coast of England, that we find the remarkable group of islands, known collectively as the Channel Islands.

The Crown Dependencies have never been colonies of the UK. Nor are they Overseas Territories, like Gibraltar, which have a different relationship with the UK. The constitutional relationship of the Islands with the UK is maintained through the Crown and is not enshrined in a formal constitutional document. HM Government is responsible for the defence and international relations of the Islands. The Crown, acting through the Privy Council, is ultimately responsible for ensuring their good government.

The Queen is the Head of State of each Island and the Lieutenant-Governor for each Crown Dependency is Her Majesty’s personal representative. The Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice is the Privy Counsellor with special responsibility for Island Affairs and is supported by a Ministry of Justice Minister who is responsible for the conduct of Islands' business within Whitehall.

The Ministry of Justice is responsible for managing the constitutional relationship with the Crown Dependencies, which involves a variety of different responsibilities including involvement in key Crown Appointments, processing their legislation for Royal Assent and issuing Letters of Entrustment authorising Crown Dependency Governments to negotiate and conclude international agreements.

The Islands’ legislatures make their own domestic legislation. Principal legislation made by the Islands’ legislatures requires Royal Assent or sanction. The Ministry of Justice examines such legislation to ensure that there is no conflict with international obligations (including European Convention on Human Rights compliance) or any fundamental constitutional principles. This enables the Lord Chancellor to advise the Privy Council whether Her Majesty in Council can be advised to make an Assenting Order, and thereby grant Royal Assent. For non-reserved Isle of Man legislation the Ministry of Justice will directly inform the Lieutenant Governor when the Lord Chancellor is content that the delegated responsibility to grant Royal Assent may be exercised.

The Crown Dependencies are not recognised internationally as sovereign States in their own right but as “territories for which the United Kingdom is responsible”. As such they cannot sign up to international agreements under their own aegis but can have the UK’s ratification of such instruments extended to them, and can sign specific international agreements if they have been entrusted to do so by the UK (as they have been in the case of Tax Information Exchange Agreements, and other agreements relating to taxation that provide for exchange of information on tax matters, with EU Member States, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development and the G20 member countries).

However, the Crown Dependencies are developing their international identities and in 2007- 2008, the then-Secretary of State for Constitutional Affairs signed an agreement with the Chief Ministers of each of the Crown Dependencies stating that the UK would not act internationally on their behalf without prior consultation and recognising that in international matters, particularly in relation to the EU, UK and Crown Dependency interests may differ. The agreements also set out a framework for the further development of the international identities of the Crown Dependencies.



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Page last modified: 28-06-2017 18:31:26 ZULU