Constitution and Parliament
The Isle of Man is not, and never has been, part of the United Kingdom, nor is it part of the European Union. It is not represented at Westminster or in Brussels.
The Island is a self-governing British Crown Dependency - as are Jersey and Guernsey in the Channel Islands - with its own parliament, government and laws. The UK government, on behalf of the Crown, is ultimately responsible for its international relations. The Queen, who is ‘Lord of Mann’, is the Manx Head of State and is represented on the Island by the Lieutenant Governor.
The Island has a special and limited relationship with the EU, under an agreement (‘Protocol 3’) negotiated when the UK joined Europe in 1973, allowing free trade in agricultural and manufactured products between the Isle of Man and EU members. Apart from matters relating to this agreement, including Customs, the Island is not bound by EU laws and it pays nothing to, and receives nothing from, EU funds.
The Manx parliament, Tynwald, was founded more than 1,000 years ago and is the oldest continuous parliament in the world. It has two chambers – the House of Keys, with 24 members (MHKs) elected at general elections every five years, and the Legislative Council, with nine members (MLCs) mostly elected by the Keys. The Isle of Man has no party political system and the leader of its government, the Chief Minister, is chosen by Tynwald after each general election.
The Chief Minister, and the nine Ministers selected by him or her to head the major government departments, make up the Council of Ministers, the central executive body or Manx ‘cabinet’, accountable to Tynwald. The current Chief Minister, elected in October 2011, is Allan Bell MHK.
History and Culture
The unique heritage of the Isle of Man is a blend of Celtic and Viking influences. Norse Viking settlers established Tynwald, the parliament, and the Manx Gaelic language can still be heard.
Manx is a Celtic language related to Irish, Scots, Welsh, Cornish and Breton. The Island was ruled by Norse, Scots and English Kings in the Middle Ages, and by sovereign Lords of Man from 1406 until 1765, when it was acquired by the British Crown.
Tynwald has endured throughout these changes and for more than ten centuries has represented the independent identity of the Manx people.
Other distinctive features of the Island include its national emblem The Three Legs of Man (derived from an ancient sun symbol), the tailless Manx cat, and the names of people and places, echoing the Gaelic/Norse past.