What is a Crown Dependency?
The Channel Islands are Crown Dependencies which means that they are self-governing possessions of the Crown – this is defined uniquely in each jurisdiction.
Jersey has had this status since 1204 when King John lost control of Normandy of which the Islands were part. However, the Channel Islands remained loyal to the crown. Since then, the English Sovereign has always held the title of the “Duke of Normandy”. The Lieutenant-Governor Jersey is the personal representative of Her Majesty the Queen.
Jersey’s relationship with the United Kingdom
Jersey’s status as a Crown Dependency gives it the constitutional rights of self-government and judicial independence. The Island has a great deal of autonomy within its relationship with the United Kingdom although it is not entirely independent.
This means that the responsibility for Jersey’s international representation rests largely with the UK government. However, the UK always consults the islands on their obligations in international law and other international agreements.
The Crown is also ultimately responsible for their “good government” this was explained by Lord Bach in a UK parliamentary answer in the House of Lords given in 2000 thus:
“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“.
The Chief Ministers of both Guernsey and Jersey signed the International Identity Framework Document with the UK Secretary of State for Constitutional Affairs in 2007. The document clarifies the constitutional relationship between the UK and the Channel Islands. The Framework also assists the development of the Islands’ international status and identity.
The Islands and the European Union
The Channel Islands have a special relationship with the European Union (EU). To put it in layman’s terms the Islands are treated as part of the European Community for the purposes of free trade, but otherwise is not a part of the EU.
The Islands’ interests are promoted in Europe by the Channel Islands Brussels Office (CIBO), which Guernsey and Jersey set up in 2011. The office aims to strengthen the Islands’ voice in Brussels, while advising the respective governments on European and international matters.
Protocol 3 and its implications
Jersey’s relationship with the EU was agreed when the UK became a full member in 1973. The nature and scope of the relationship that was negotiated is contained within Protocol No. 3, attached to the Act of Accession which governs the conditions of the United Kingdom’s entry into the EEC.
The implications of the negotiations were that Jersey is allowed to participate in the EEC market in agricultural products and products processed from them. Other EU measures do not apply to Jersey and it remains free to determine locally how to legislate and regulate. This means that, in particular, the EU provisions on taxation, VAT, company law, financial services and consumer protection do not apply. Jersey is therefore free to maintain an independent fiscal policy and hence, as a consequence of its constitutional position, developed into a leading international finance centre.