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Constitution Debate

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Why we need to stop talking about a written constitution. Photo: Pixabay Every time there is some new constitutional calamity in the United Kingdom, and they have been rather common in this era of Brexit and Dominic Cummings, a similarly common response from anyone progressive or liberal is to ritually demand a “written” constitution.

Why we need to stop talking about a written constitution

And that is usually all that is said on the subject, as if such a demand is sufficient in itself as a reaction to what has gone wrong. But this is misguided and indeed irresponsible for three reasons. First, a written constitution would not by itself lead to more liberal government. Many of the most repressive regimes in modern times have had written constitutions which, on paper, would seem exemplars of how fundamental rights and freedoms should be protected. Second, there is no obvious or plausible way to get from where we are now to putting in place an entrenched constitution. Is it time for a written constitution in the UK? Calls are growing for a codified British constitution as the battle between government and Parliament over Brexit plays out in the Supreme Court.

Is it time for a written constitution in the UK?

The upcoming ruling on whether Boris Johnson’s prorogation of Parliament was unlawful has been described as one of the most significant for constitutional law in the past century. Several Remainer MPs have described the prime minister’s decision to suspend the House of Commons in the run-up to Brexit as a “constitutional outrage”, but his supporters have dismissed the claim, pointing out that MPs have been sent home for only a week longer than usual.

“The debate over constitutionality is fascinating and important. But it is also absurd because we have no written constitution,” says Adam Wagner in the New Statesman. “Instead, we have a hodgepodge of procedural rules, ancient customs, conventions, norms, and the Queen’s obscure power-not-power. Does Britain need a proper constitution? Could a codified constitution break the deadlock in British politics?

Does Britain need a proper constitution?

Photo: PA Yes: Sionaidh Douglas-Scott Yes, if by “proper” we mean codified, with some provisions “entrenched” so they are harder to change. Britain is one of a tiny handful of states in the world to lack a codified constitution. Nothing wrong with being an outlier some might say, and why change a system that has served for several hundred years? NEW ARTICLE THIS WEEK: The Constitution Is Not Working. Covid and the constitution (LSE)

Andrew Blick considers the implications of the COVID-19 emergency for the UK constitution, ranging from the effectiveness of specific laws to the socio-economic role of government.

Covid and the constitution (LSE)

The coronavirus emergency is profound in its constitutional implications. They involve both the immediate response and the longer-term context. Coronavirus is not only a problem for any one country or region in the world, but for all of them, and its impact is more severe for each, precisely because of its consequences for all. When considering the constitutional implications of COVID-19, it is necessary to take into account that this episode has manifested itself against a pre-existing background of doubt about certain aspects of the UK constitution. Emergency powers Unavoidably, public authorities in the UK (as elsewhere), and in particular the UK executive, have taken enhanced authorities, expanded functions, and greater discretionary powers. The nature of the UK constitution Acting prime ministers. Does Britain need a written constitution after Brexit?

Ever since Britain voted for Brexit in 2016, there’s been talk of a “constitutional crisis”.

Does Britain need a written constitution after Brexit?

But what actually is the constitution? Leaving the EU means untangling thousands of laws that the UK got from Europe. But politicians also have to be careful not to fall foul of our own ancient, murky constitution – which has evolved over hundreds of years. Compared to the written US constitution, Britain’s rules are pretty confusing.

In fact, there is no written constitution at all – it’s just a collection of traditions and legal rules. So does Brexit show that it’s now time to write it all down, and sort everything out once and for all? Watch more of our explainer series here. Sep 2019 LBC Codification Debate. 17 September 2019, 11:00 | Updated: 17 September 2019, 12:20 Shami Chakrabarti Says British Democracy Is 'Broken' And Needs A Written Constitution The Labour peer and human rights activist told LBC that "maybe it is time" for people to sit down and write a constitution.

Sep 2019 LBC Codification Debate

LBC presenter Nick Ferrari asked her: "Do we move to the possibility of - and you might go nuts at this - a written constitution for this country so we know where we stand. " She told LBC Nick, when it came to British democracy, she used to think that "if it ain't broke, don't fix it. " She added: "Because this is one of the oldest unbroken democracies on earth, let's be honest about that. But now I'm coming to the view that it may be 'broke'. " Prorogation is one example of this, she said. She also told Nick: "When gentlemen's agreements no longer work because, frankly, there are no gentlemen left in the room... maybe it is time to have a constitutional convention.


Overview (General)

Codified Groups. Un-Codified Groups. Judges Extra Reading. Curiosity Spot: A crowdsourced constitution?