1,000 words / The Supreme Court’s Judgment in Miller

In this 1,000 words post I explain the key points decided by the UK Supreme Court in R (Miller) v Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union [2017] UKSC 5. I have written a separate, longer, post in which I analyse the case in depth; that post can be found here. In its judgment in Miller, the Supreme Court reached two key conclusions: that an Act of Parliament is needed before Brexit can be triggered, and that the law does not enable devolved legislatures in Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland to block Brexit. Article 50 of the Treaty on European Union … Continue reading 1,000 words / The Supreme Court’s Judgment in Miller

1,000 words / The Miller case in the Supreme Court: The key arguments

The decision of the Supreme Court in Miller — in which the UK Government will ask the Supreme Court to rule that the Article 50 process for withdrawing from the EU can be initiated without parliamentary involvement — may have significant consequences for how Brexit unfolds. But the Court is certainly not being asked to rule upon the wisdom of Brexit. What, then, are the legal issues that the Court is being asked to determine? The Government wishes to trigger Article 50 using the Crown’s ‘prerogative’, or inherent, power to conduct the foreign relations of the UK. However, the claimant … Continue reading 1,000 words / The Miller case in the Supreme Court: The key arguments

1,000 words / Devolution

The current system of devolution in the UK was introduced by the Blair Government in the late 1990s. It involved the creation of new legislative and executive institutions in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, and the conferral upon them of law-making and administrative powers. A key purpose of devolution is to enable parts of the country that possess distinct political and cultural identities to remain part of the Union without subjugating those individual identities.The hypothesis upon which devolution was built is that it can strengthen the Union by equipping it to accommodate diversity, a flexible structure being stronger than a brittle … Continue reading 1,000 words / Devolution

1,000 words / Fundamental principles explained

Posts in my 1,000 words series address — in roughly a thousand words — a key concept, issue, case or debate relevant to Public Law. The intention is that 1,000 words will evolve into a resource that will address a broad range of key issues in Public Law, and that it will help students better to engage with crucial aspects of the subject. Posts in the 1,000 words series are not intended to replace traditional resources, such as textbooks, but rather to complement them, including by providing additional perspectives and highlighting relationships between the often-interconnected issues that must be confronted if Public Law is to be understood. 1,000 … Continue reading 1,000 words / Fundamental principles explained

1,000 words / If EU law is supreme, can Parliament be sovereign?

That the United Kingdom’s Parliament is sovereign is a—perhaps the—fundamental principle of British constitutional law. Yet the supremacy of European Union law—meaning that it takes priority over conflicting laws enacted by individual Member States—is a basic principle of the EU’s legal system. These two propositions appear to stand in stark contrast to one another: they seem to imply competing, and ultimately contradictory, claims as to ultimate legal authority, at least in areas to which EU law applies. This, in turn, raises the question whether the UK’s membership of the EU (for as long as that membership persists) means that the … Continue reading 1,000 words / If EU law is supreme, can Parliament be sovereign?

1,000 words / The Rule of Law

As a phrase, the “rule of law” is a powerful rhetorical device. To condemn something as being “contrary to the rule of law” amounts to strong criticism. However, at least in popular discourse, the term is used loosely. This reflects two respects in which the rule of law, as a matter of both legal theory and constitutional reality, is both uncertain and contested. First, what is it that makes something contrary to the rule of law — in other words, what does the rule of law in the first place require? And, second, if something is contrary to the rule … Continue reading 1,000 words / The Rule of Law

1,000 words / Parliamentary sovereignty

On the surface, at least, parliamentary sovereignty — a phenomenon that applies to the UK, or Westminster, Parliament, but not to the UK’s devolved legislatures — is a simple concept. To paraphrase Dicey, Parliament has the legal authority to enact, amend or repeal any law, and no-one has the legal authority to stop it from doing so. But this notion is as extravagant as it is simple: it means, as Stephen famously put it, that a law directing the killing of all blue-eyed babies would be valid. The fact that such laws remain unenacted is thanks to “political constitutionalism” as opposed to “legal … Continue reading 1,000 words / Parliamentary sovereignty