British Islands

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British Islands
Other native names
A map of the British Islands
A map showing the areas referred to as the British Islands shaded red.
LocationNorth-western Europe
Coordinates54°N 4°W / 54°N 4°W / 54; -4Coordinates: 54°N 4°W / 54°N 4°W / 54; -4
Adjacent bodies of waterAtlantic Ocean, North Sea
Total islands6,000+
Highest elevation1,345 m (4413 ft)
Highest pointBen Nevis[5]
Capital and largest settlementSaint Peter Port
Area covered78 km2 (30 sq mi)
Capital and largest settlementSaint Helier
Area covered118 km2 (46 sq mi)
Capital and largest settlementDouglas
Area covered572 km2 (221 sq mi)
Capital and largest cityLondon
Area covered244,111 km2 (94,252 sq mi)
LanguagesAuregnais, Cornish, English, French, Guernésiais, Irish, Jèrriais, Manx, Scots, Scottish Gaelic, Sercquiais, Shelta, Ulster-Scots, Welsh
Additional information
Time zone
 • Summer (DST)
Drives on theleft

The British Islands is a term within the law of the United Kingdom which since 1949 has referred collectively to the following four polities:

The Isle of Man and the Bailiwicks of Guernsey and Jersey are Crown dependencies and are not a part of the United Kingdom. The Parliament of the United Kingdom on occasions introduces legislation that is extended to the islands, normally by the use of Orders in Council. For this reason it has been found useful to have a collective term for the combined territories. Dating back to 1889, a statutory definition can be found in Schedule 1 of the Interpretation Act 1978.[6]

The term The United Kingdom and the Islands is used in the Immigration Act 1971.[7][8]


British passports issued in the UK have the wording "British Passport - United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland" on their cover. In the Crown dependencies, this is replaced by "British Passport – Bailiwick of Jersey", "British Passport – Bailiwick of Guernsey" or "British Passport – Isle of Man". Before the UK left the European Union, they used to say "British Islands". These passports are issued to all British citizens resident in the jurisdiction in question.[9]

Legal basis[edit]

Section 5 of the Interpretation Act 1978 provides that "in any Act, unless the contrary intention appears" the expression "British Islands" is to be construed according to Schedule 1 of that Act, which contains the following paragraph:

"British Islands" means the United Kingdom, the Channel Islands and the Isle of Man.[6]

Subject to paragraph 4(2) of Schedule 2, that paragraph of Schedule 1 applies, so far as applicable, to Acts passed after the year 1889.[10]

Paragraph 4(2) provides:

The definition of "British Islands", in its application to Acts passed after the establishment of the Irish Free State but before the commencement of this Act, includes the Republic of Ireland.[10]

Irish Free State[edit]

The Irish Free State was established on 6 December 1922 and the Interpretation Act 1978 came into force on 1 January 1979. With effect from the Ireland Act 1949, British law recognised that the Republic of Ireland had ceased to be a Dominion and/or member of the Commonwealth of Nations but that it would not be treated as a foreign country for the purposes of British law.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "the British Isles". té – Dictionary of Irish Terms. Foras na Gaeilge and Dublin City University. Retrieved 18 November 2016. the British Isles s pl (Tíreolaíocht · Geography; Polaitíocht · Politics; Stair · History; Logainmneacha » Ceantar/Réigiún · Placenames » Area/Region) Na hOileáin bhriontanacha
  2. ^ University of Glasgow Department of Celtic
  3. ^ Office of The President of Tynwald (PDF), archived from the original (PDF) on 24 February 2009
  4. ^ "Règlement (1953) (Amendement) Sur l'importation et l'exportation d'animaux". States of Jersey. Archived from the original on 29 January 2016. Retrieved 2 February 2012.
  5. ^ "Great Britain's tallest mountain is taller - Ordnance Survey Blog". Ordnance Survey Blog. 18 March 2016. Retrieved 9 September 2018.
  6. ^ a b "Interpretation Act 1978 SCHEDULE 1". Government of the United Kingdom. Retrieved 24 October 2019.
  7. ^ "" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 1 September 2009. Retrieved 3 September 2013.
  8. ^ "Immigration Act 1971". Retrieved 3 September 2013.
  9. ^ "States of Guernsey passports". Guernsey Government Website. Archived from the original on 20 November 2008. Retrieved 6 February 2009.
  10. ^ a b "Interpretation Act 1978 SCHEDULE 2". Government of the United Kingdom. Retrieved 24 October 2019.

External links[edit]