Monday, 1 August 2016

Constitutional Ramblings

1st August 2016.  The United Kingdom is coming to terms with the momentous decision of the 23rd June referendum to leave the European Union - (Brexit as it has come to be known).  It is a decision likely to lead to profound difficulties both politically and economically even though much of this was reasonably foreseeable during the referendum campaign.  A series of posts about the UK-EU relationship is available on the Law and Lawyers blog.

The vote for Brexit is bound to reignite much debate about the UK's internal constitutional arrangements.

One of the many undercurrents of the referendum campaign was the perception that too many things are controlled by the "undemocratic EU" with its "unelected Commission" in Brussels.  A view developed that it was necessary for Parliament and government to regain control over the United Kingdom's affairs.  That leads on to questions such as what form of government does the UK have and what are the respective roles of Parliament and the government.

The British arrangements for Parliament and government are complex and, in themselves, have some undemocratic features.  Unfortunately, there is generally a lack of understanding about these "constitutional arrangements."

The blog does not aim to be either a comprehensive or detailed text on constitutional law.  Nevertheless, I hope that it will be both of interest and value to those seeking some general understanding of our constitution and, in particular, younger readers who are to be encouraged to gain some understanding of how their country is governed.

The United Kingdom (UK) is actually the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland.  It is a Constitutional Monarchy and it is a UNION although, in recent years, it displays some characteristics of Federation.  Great Britain comprises England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.

There is a United Kingdom Parliament at Westminster which is the supreme law-making body for the UK.  There are devolved Parliaments and governments in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.  As devolved bodies they have limited powers since they are bound by the UK Parliament statutes creating them.

The United Kingdom Parliament is a form of "Representative Democracy" in that the House of Commons is an elected chamber and its members are not mere delegates but are required to exercise their own judgment with regard to matters coming before them.*  The second chamber of the UK Parliament is the House of Lords and is not elected.

The Crown Dependencies of Jersey, Guernsey and Isle of Man are not part of the UK - see Crown Dependencies.

The Links of Interest list in the sidebar to this blog contain links to other blogs dealing with this very important and interesting subject.

* Edmund Burke - Speech to the Electors of Bristol 1774

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