The Channel Islands are a group of small islands which are situated in the English Channel. As you can see on the map, they are much closer to France than to England.

They consist of two separate Bailiwicks, the Bailiwick of Jersey and the Bailiwick of Guernsey. The latter consists of Guernsey, Herm, Jethou, Alderney and Sark. There are no formal links between the two Bailiwicks.


Before the Norman Conquest the Channel Islands were part of the Duchy of Normandy, but when continental Normandy was freed from English rule in 1204 the Islands retained their allegiance to the English Crown. Afterwards successive English monarchs have ruled the Islands through their claim to the title of the Duke of Normandy, and they have observed the established laws, customs and liberties. The latter have been confirmed through Royal Charters which have secured the independence of the Islands´ judicial systems from the English courts, and have granted important privileges, including the right to tariff free trade with England and freedom from English taxes. The Islands have never been involved with, or subjected to the administrative systems of the Government of the United Kingdom.


Constitutionally, the Channel Islands are dependencies of the Crown, owing allegiance to the Sovereign, but without incorporation into the United Kingdom.

Effectively, they are self-governing in internal matters, but the United Kingdom Government is responsible for defence, overseas representation and international affairs generally.

So once again, the Channel Islands have their own government, their own systems of local administration, their own fiscal and legal systems and their own courts of law. They are neither part of the United Kingdom nor colonies. They just have allegiance to the British Crown.

They are not represented in the United Kingdom Parliament, whose Acts extend to the Channel Islands only if those expressly agree that they should do so. By convention, Parliament does not legislate for the Islands without their consents in matters of taxation or issues of local concern.

As to taxation, the Channel Islands are politically and fiscally secure low tax areas and therefore lots of banks and firms come there.


At the time of the accession of the United Kingdom to the Treaty of Rome special terms applying to the Islands were defined. Under these terms the Islands are included within the European Communities for the purpose of free movement of manufactured and agricultural goods. Yet, they are neither separate Member States nor Associate Members of the European Communities. For the provisions of the EC Treaty relating to free trade in goods, the Islands and the United Kingdom are treated as one Member State.

Other provisions of the Treaty of Rome, including those relating to the free movement of Community citizens, capital movements, and the harmonisation of taxation and social policies, are not applicable to the Islands. Moreover, the Islands do not have access to financial support under the Common Agricultural Policy, nor to funding from the Communities´ Social or Development funds.

Furthermore, under existing EU regulations, people born in the Channel Islands face restrictions when taking up employment in EU countries other than the United Kingdom. However, they may avoid any restrictions if they have a parent or grandparent born in the United Kingdom or have themselves been resident there for at least five years.

Any change in the arrangements for the Islands would require an amendment to the Treaty of Accession of the United Kingdom and this would require the agreement of all EU Member States including the United Kingdom. No such change is in prospect or envisaged.


The dominant language of the Islands is English, although French remains the official language of the Courts of the Islands. English is used exclusively in debates in the States chambers and legislation is drafted in English.

Occasionally one can hear people speaking the local patois, a Norman-French dialect, but this has become increasingly rare.

There is also a creole language (mixture of English and French) spoken in some parts of the Islands.


In the Channel Islands there are only primary and secondary school systems, but nothing beyond that level. Therefore, people who want to study have to go either to England or to France.


The Channel Islands have a very favoured position with an equable and much warmer, sunnier climate than most parts of Britain. Therefore, lots of tourists (especially people from the United Kingdom and France) spend their holidays there.

However, it is quite difficult to settle in the Islands, because the governments have established very strict immigration rules. Moreover, there are restrictions on the acquisition of dwelling accommodation and employment restrictions.


The Islands are in monetary union with the United Kingdom but issue their own currency which consists of notes and coins of various denominations. English and Scottish currency is also in circulation.



Jersey is situated 14 miles off the north-west coast of France and 85 miles from the English coast. It is the largest of the Channel Islands with a surface area of 117 km² and a population of about 85000 people.

Jersey operates in the European time zone and it is the sunniest place in the British Isles. The capital of Jersey is Saint Hélier.


Guernsey is the second largest of the Channel Islands with a surface area of 63 km² and a population of 56 000 people. Most of the island is hill country and in the South there are steep coasts. Its capital is Saint Peter Port.


Alderney is the third largest of the Channel Islands with a surface area of 8 km² and a population of about 2400 inhabitants. The capital of Alderney is Saint Anne.

Moreover, Alderney is the island lying nearest to the mainland of Britain and it is frequently described as the most British of the Channel Islands. Yet, it has a distinctly French flavour which is not surprising as the island´s closest neighbour, France, is only 8 miles away.

However, despite its closeness to the mainland of France and the other Channel Islands, Alderney has managed to avoid mainstream tourism.

Finally it has to be said that bureaucracy barely exists in the Channel Islands and least of all in Alderney. In this respect the political position of Alderney is unique in the British Commonwealth.


Sark is a rather small island 11 km east of Guernsey with a surface area of 5,5 km² and a population of 600 people. The capital of Sark is La Collinette.

In this island no cars are allowed, only the ruler of Sark, 'the Dame', may use one. As the title 'the Dame' indicates, the ruler of Sark was always female in history. In other words, the ownership of the island goes through a female line. However, at the moment 'the Dame' is a man.