Isle of Man – an overview

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The Island

The Isle of Man is in the middle of the Irish Sea at the centre of the British Isles.

It is 33 miles (53km) long and 13 miles (22km) wide at its broadest point, with a total land area of 227 square miles (572 square km). The resident population at the 2011 census was 84,500, up 5.5% since 2006.

A richly varied rural landscape rises to the 2,036 ft (621m) summit of Snaefell, the highest peak. The town of Douglas, on the east coast, is the capital and main centre of population (27,938 residents, 2011).

Regular air and sea services connect with a number of destinations in the United Kingdom (including London by air) and the Irish Republic. The nearest ferry port is Heysham in the north-west of England, 58 nautical miles (107km) from Douglas. There are no immigration barriers between the Isle of Man and the UK and Ireland, but the Island does have a work permit system.

People and things native to the Isle of Man are described by the adjective ‘Manx’.

Constitution

The Isle of Man is not, and never has been, part of the United Kingdom, nor is it part of the European Union. 

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
  • the Legislative Council, with nine members (MLCs) mostly elected by the Keys

The two chambers process legislation (which requires the Royal Assent before it can come into effect) but sit together as Tynwald to debate policy and financial issues.

Party politics plays a minor role in the Manx system and the majority of election candidates stand as independents. The leader of the government, the Chief Minister, is chosen by Tynwald after each general election. The Chief Minister, and the eight Ministers selected by him or her, make up the Council of Ministers, the central executive body or Manx ‘cabinet’, accountable to Tynwald.

The current Chief Minister, appointed in October 2016, is Howard Quayle 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 independent 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 triskelion), the tail-less Manx cat, and the names of people and places, echoing the Gaelic/Norse past.

Economy

The Isle of Man has achieved a remarkable three decades of continuous economic growth, led by the international financial services industry but increasingly diverse.

Business is attracted by:

  • high standards of service and specialist professional expertise
  • supportive government
  • world-class telecoms infrastructure
  • competitive tax regime
  • sound financial regulation
  • excellent quality of life for families and individuals

A number of external bodies, including the International Monetary Fund, have confirmed that the Island’s defences against money laundering comply with the highest global standards, and that it co-operates fully in combating international financial crime. On taxation issues, the Island has been at the forefront of compliance with developing international standards of transparency and exchange of information.

Recent growth areas of the Isle of Man economy include e-business and e-gaming in particular, international shipping and aviation. Longer established sectors like manufacturing and tourism (and the famous TT motorcycle races) are still important.

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