Foreign relations of the Isle of Man

Under British law, the Isle of Man is a Crown dependency and not an integral part of the United Kingdom.

International identity

Historically, the UK has taken care of its external and defence affairs, and retains paramount power to legislate for the Island. However, in 2007, the Isle of Man and the UK signed an agreement[1] that established frameworks for the development of the international identity of the Isle of Man. Among the points clarified in the agreement were that:

  • the UK has no democratic accountability in and for the Isle of Man which is governed by its own democratically elected assembly;
  • the UK will not act internationally on behalf of the Isle of Man without prior consultation;
  • the Isle of Man has an international identity that is different from that of the UK;
  • the UK supports the principle of the Isle of Man further developing its international identity;
  • the UK recognises that the interests of the Isle of Man 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 the Isle of Man will work together to resolve or clarify any differences that may arise between their respective interests.


There is no separate Manx citizenship. Citizenship is covered by UK law, and Manx people are classed as British citizens. However, unlike British citizens from the UK, those defined as Manxmen under Protocol 3 have a special endorsement placed in their passports stating that they are not allowed to benefit from EC provisions relating to employment or establishment. Those Manx persons with a parent or grandparent born in the United Kingdom (England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland), or who have lived in the UK for five years, are deemed to have a sufficient relationship to the UK to not be subject to this provision.

European Union

The Isle of Man holds neither membership nor associate membership of the European Union, and lies outside the European Economic Area (EEA). Nonetheless, Protocol Three of the treaty of accession of the United Kingdom permits trade for Manx goods without non-EU tariffs.[2] In conjunction with the Customs and Excise agreement with the UK, this facilitates free trade with the UK. While Manx goods can be freely moved within the EEA, people, capital and services cannot.

As with Jersey and Guernsey, the Isle of Man is not part of the United Kingdom or a direct member of the European Community and its relationship with the EU is defined under Article 355(5)(c) of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (former Article 299 of the EC Treaty) and Protocol 3 of the Act of Accession, annexed to the Treaty of Accession 1972, by which the United Kingdom became a member of the European Economic Community.[3]

The restriction on free movement of persons is anomalous in that the treaty establishing the EU clearly states that all citizens of member states will also be citizens of the EU. However a special protocol was inserted in the Treaty of Accession of the United Kingdom excluding the Channel Islands and Isle of Man from the provisions governing free movement of people. This was done at the request of the governments of the Crown dependencies at the time.

Commonwealth of Nations

The Isle of Man is not itself a member of the Commonwealth of Nations, as membership is only open to sovereign nations, but it is considered part of the Commonwealth by virtue of its relationship with the United Kingdom, and takes part in several Commonwealth institutions, including the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association and the Commonwealth Games. The Government of the Isle of Man has made calls for a more integrated relationship with the Commonwealth,[4] including more direct representation and enhanced participation in Commonwealth organisations and meetings, including Commonwealth Heads of Government Meetings.[5] 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"[6]

Relations with the United Kingdom

The Parliament of the United Kingdom has paramount power to legislate for the Isle of Man on all matters but it is a long-standing convention that it does not do so on domestic ('insular') matters without Tynwald's consent.[7] The mechanism by which the Crown normally applies UK legislation is the Privy Council.

To extend UK legislation in this way, it would first require a 'permissive extent clause', which takes the following form:

Her Majesty may, by Order in Council, direct that any provision of this Act shall extend, with such exceptions, adaptations and modifications, if any, as may be specified in the Order, to the Isle of Man

Alternatively, the Act of Parliament can directly state that some or all of it extends to the Isle of Man.

This Act extends only to the Isle of Man
—The Statute Law Revision (Isle of Man) Act 1991 (An Act of Parliament)

However, the convention of obtaining consent is only moral, not legal. Tynwald requested that the Kilbrandon Commission on the Constitution (1969–73) propose that the convention be enshrined in 'strict law', but this suggestion was rejected – partly because the UK Parliament could not make such a law binding on its successors.

Occasionally, the UK Parliament acts against the wishes of Tynwald – the most recent example being the Marine etc. Broadcasting (Offences) Act 1967, which banned pirate radio stations from operating in Manx waters. Legislation to accomplish this was defeated on its second reading in Tynwald, promoting Westminster to legislate directly.

This power of the UK Parliament is an ancient consequence of the Lord of Mann's feudality beneath the English Crown, and not a consequence of revestment. An early example of the English Parliament legislating for the Isle of Man was the Bishoprics of Chester and Man Act 1541.

Within the British Government, the Secretary of State for Justice has prime responsibility as Privy Counsellor for Manx Affairs, and Manx affairs are handled by the Ministry of Justice. Before 2001 the Home Office had this responsibility.

The UK Government justifies this ability to intervene in Manx affairs by pointing to the responsibility of the British Crown for the 'good government' of Man. This was the subject of a written exchange on 3 May 2000 in the House of Lords. In response to a Written Question by Baroness Strange enquiring as to the meaning and scope of the Crown's responsibility for the good government of the Crown Dependencies, Lord Bach, for the Government, replied 'The Crown is ultimately responsible for the good government of the Crown Dependencies. This means that, in the circumstances of a grave breakdown or failure in the administration of justice or civil order, the residual prerogative power of the Crown could be used to intervene in the internal affairs of the Channel Islands and the Isle of Man. It is unhelpful to the relationship between Her Majesty's Government and the Islands to speculate about the hypothetical and highly unlikely circumstances in which such intervention might take place.' If the UK Parliament was unable to impose legislation upon the Isle of Man it would have 'responsibility without power'.

In addition to this, the Kilbrandon Commission was firmly of the view that Parliament does have power to legislate for the Islands without their consent on any matter in order to give effect to an international agreement which the UK may have made on behalf of the Crown Dependencies. The Kilbrandon Commission went on to make the point that, if Parliament can legislate for the Isle of Man at all, about which there was no doubt, then surely this power knows no bounds - if Parliament can legislate, it can legislate in whatever area it chooses; this is, after all, implicit in the notion of the sovereignty of Parliament.[8]

The UK's secondary legislation (regulations and Statutory Instruments) currently cannot be extended to apply to the Isle of Man because there is no piece of primary legislation on the UK statute books that would allow for this.

The Isle of Man is subject to certain European Union laws, by virtue of a being a territory for which the UK has responsibility in international law. These laws are those for areas not covered by the Protocol 3 opt-out that the UK included for the Isle of Man in its accession treaty - the areas excluded being free movement of persons, services and capital and taxation and social policy harmonisation. The exact extent by which EU law extends to Crown Dependencies is however unclear (see Rui Alberto Pereira Roque v. Lieutenant Governor of Jersey, [1998] E.C.R. I-4607)

The Isle of Man has had several disputes with the European Court of Human Rights because it was late to change its laws concerning birching (corporal punishment) and sodomy.

Advice of ministers

The Queen, the Lord of Mann, usually acts on the advice of her UK ministers, not those of her Isle of Man Government. In practice, this means that many decisions relating to the island are taken by the Secretary of State for Justice (previously the Secretary of State for Constitutional Affairs, and before that, the Home Secretary).

This includes:

Before 2010 the Lieutenant Governor was appointed by the Crown on the advice of a panel led by the Government of the United Kingdom. Since 2010[9] the Lieutenant Governor is appointed on advice of an entirely local panel, comprising the Chief Minister, President of Tynwald and the First Deemster.

Ireland–Isle of Man relations

Main article: Ireland–Isle of Man relations

There is a long history of relations and cultural exchange between the Isle of Man and Ireland. The languages of Ireland and Isle of Man (Gaelic and Manx) are similar, and in 1947, Irish Taoiseach Éamon de Valera spearheaded efforts to save the dying Manx language. Additional joint work on language preservation was commenced as recently as 2008.[10] In 2008, Ireland signed several tax agreements with the Isle of Man - the first such agreements made by the Irish government with any international financial center.[11][12] Ireland and the Isle of Man have collaborated on preparing reports and jointly pressing the UK government to shut down the Sellafield nuclear plant.[13]

Work permits and immigration

Anybody who has not lived on the island for five years, including British citizens, requires a Control of Employment work permit from the Manx government to take up employment on the island. Manx people, as British Citizens, may travel and work freely in the United Kingdom. Passports issued on the Island are marked 'British Islands - Isle of Man', instead of 'United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland', and these passports are issued to all British Citizens resident on the island.

Protocol three of the Treaty of Accession of the United Kingdom to the European Economic Community stipulates that those defined as Manxmen "shall not benefit from provisions relating to the free movement of persons and services".[2][14] Such people have a stamp in their passports stating that '[t]he holder is not entitled to benefit from EC provisions relating to employment or establishment'. Manxmen, like Channel Islanders, are not technically covered by the rights of the freedom of movement of workers and, therefore, have no automatic right to work or start a business within mainland Europe.[15] In practice, this is rarely a problem.

Travel to the Isle of Man is regulated by British law.[16] Most travel to the island is from air and sea ports in either the UK or Ireland. Schedule 4 of the Immigration Act 1971 applies a reciprocal arrangement whereby foreign nationals legitimately present in the UK or a Crown dependencies do not legally require any leave to travel to any other part of the British Islands.

The Isle of Man, together with the Channel Islands, the UK, and the Republic of Ireland form a Common Travel Area, which means there are no immigration controls imposed on those travelling inside the area. However, because the Immigration Act 1971 does not apply to the Republic of Ireland, the Isle of Man uses the Control of Entry Through the Republic of Ireland Order to automatically grant legal leave to anyone arriving on the Island from the Republic.

Section 7(1) of the Immigration Act 1988 grants the legal right to visit and reside in the Isle of Man to EU and EEA citizens. The Isle of Man is not permitted by EU law to discriminate between the citizens of the UK and other EU countries, and consequently any British or other European citizen is currently free to immigrate to the Island to live. However, the requirement for a work permit before taking up employment still applies.


British Embassies issue Manx visas parallel to each of the UK visas, such as visitor, residence, and working holiday. The conditions and effects of the visas are identical, and the Chief Secretary's Office of the Isle of Man Government notes that most visitors to the Island apply for the UK visa.


The Isle of Man has no legislation related to asylum claims. Where claims are made, due to 'safe third country' rules in International Law, the claimant is returned to either the Republic of Ireland or the UK depending on their route to the Isle of Man.

In the event that it was not possible to ascertain the origin of a claimant, the Manx Government would have to decide the claim. As there are no Manx Immigration Officers, it has been stated that a UK Immigration Service officer would handle the case on behalf of the Island, and make a recommendation to the Lieutenant Governor, who would then exercise his prerogative. The UK Immigration Service, as part of the UK's Home Office, has no legal standing on the Isle of Man, and would only act in an advisory capacity.


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