• June 4, 2019

The Celtic League have written to the Ministry of Justice which overseas links between the UK and the Dependencies seeking clarification of the the current Defence obligations of the Isle of Man.

The League seek clarity on British Government ability to impose defence requirements in peacetime and also ask if this is allowable how it squares with International law in respect of purportedly self government territories with their own government, administration or parliament:

“Lord Keen of Elie QC
Ministry of Justice
102 Petty France

“By email (copied via post)

“Dear Lord Keen of Elie,

“I write with reference to the constitutional relationship between the Isle of Man and the United Kingdom in relation to Defence matters.

“I was recently advised by the Manx Chief Minister that the Isle of Man was unable to refuse to allow training of Royal Saudi Air Force (RSAF) personnel based at RAF Valley from using the Isle of Man Civil Airport at Ronaldsway because:

‘under the Island’s constitutional relationship with the United Kingdom through the Crown, the UK is constitutionally responsible for the Island’s defence’.

“Obviously our organisation have concerns about the current policy being pursued by the government of Saudi arabia and its bombing (by the RSAF) of civilian targets in Yemen. Our view is shared by a number of Manx civil society bodies.

“I had understood that when the issue of Mann’s Defence relationship with the United Kingdom was last discussed in a constitutional context the UK position was that the Isle of Man would:

‘save in time of war or any dire emergency make available its territory…at its discretion either for training or operational purposes’

“I’m bound to say since that statement was made by the UK Her Majesty’s government has accepted that position. If I could give examples:

“1)In the early 1980s the decision to seek an extension to the NATO sea bombing range at Jurby Head (now closed) was left to the discretion of the Manx government – it was not extended although that was the wish of the UK at the time.

“2) The United Kingdom parliament records the Defence Ministry advised in 1982 that low flying below two thousand feet was proscribed for military aircraft over the land area of the Isle of Man – again this was at the request of the IOM government but a caveat allowed flights under the direction of Manx based controllers in the flight avoidance zone for military aircraft around Ronaldsway Civil Airport.

“3) The United Kingdom Ministry of Defence has a track record of seeking approval for military exercises and when this is refused accepting that decision.

“Can you advise when it was determined that the UK government could in peacetime override the will of the Isle of Man government as regards the land, sea or air space of the Isle of Man by UK Defence Forces and specifically nationals being trained by them who are not members of a formal Defence agreement such as NATO which is deemed part of the DEFENCE of the Isle of Man?

“Could I also ask what the implications are in terms of International Law are if (as the Isle of Man Chief Minister avers) a host country can impose its military will on a ‘self governing territory or dependency’ in peacetime without the approval of that government?

“I welcome clarification of these points and am happy to provide further elaboration if required.

“Yours faithfully

Image: Ronaldsway – MOJ building inset.

J B Moffatt(Mr)
Assistant General Secretary 
Celtic League”

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