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j.1477 7053.1999.tb00482.x.pdf


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T H E BRITISH-IRISH COUNCIL AND DEVOLUTION

289

formal framework which, in theory at least, makes the two countries
as foreign to each other as Russia and Brazil.
Membership of the Council, however, is not confined only to
nations. The initial members of the Council will be Britain and
Ireland, the devolved bodies in Northern Ireland, Scotland and
Wales, and, ‘when established, and if appropriate, elsewhere in the
United Kingdom’, but also representatives of three British Crown
dependencies which are not part of the United Kingdom, the Isle
of Man, Guernsey and Jersey. These dependencies of course do not
regard themselves as separate nations. The provision for
representing devolved bodies ‘elsewhere in the United Kingdom’
is, presumably, intended to allow for the possibility of devolution in
England. Such devolution could take the form either of an English
Parliament or of English regional assemblies - see the section on
the British-Irish Council and England, pages 29 1-4, below.
The British-Irish Council is to meet at summit level, twice a year,
and in specific sectoral formats on a regular basis, with each of the
participants being represented by an appropriate minister. The
Council will be primarily consultative and might consider issues
such as transport links, agriculture, environmental and cultural
issues, health, education and approaches to the European Union. It
is open to the Council to agree upon common policies, but it cannot
bind individual members who can choose to opt out o r not
participate in such common policies. There will in addition be
encouragement to build complementary interparliamentary links
between the members, perhaps on the lines of the British-Irish
Interparliamentary Body.

THE BRITISH-IRISH COUNCIL AND THE NORDIC COUNCIL

The British-Irish Council is modelled in part on the Nordic Council
whose members are Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway and Sweden,
together with three autonomous areas - the Faeroes and Greenland
which are part of Denmark, and the Aaland Islands which are part
of Finland. The Nordic Council has achieved a considerable degree
of integration but, by contrast with the European Union, has not
impinged upon the sovereignty of its members. The British-Irish
Council will share with the Nordic Council a feature unusual if not
unique amongst international bodies in not being composed