Q1. "Why do you think the United Kingdom has never drafted a formal written constitution?"

A ‘constitution’ is represented by codifying a country’s laws and principles.  Perhaps most significantly, a constitution establishes citizens’ rights and the scope of government power.  No single document exists within the UK from which all constitutional laws and principles are derived.  The UK constitution, colloquially referred to as ‘unwritten’ or ‘flexible’, is embroidered by multiple sources and influential bodies (White, 2022).  Specifically: statutes, conventions, common law, monarchy, judicial independence, and executive and legislative branches (Blackburn, 2015).

It can be argued that a written constitution generally provides stability that its ‘unwritten’ counterpart lacks.  Others may suggest that written constitutions are inflexible and gridlock government responsiveness to fluctuating circumstances.  Over the centuries, the UK constitution has developed as a product of evolution, not revolution (Blackburn, 2022).  Its complexity has continued to grow with little consensus on the benefits of moving to a single written constitution.

Perhaps the key factor underpinning why the UK has never written a formal constitution is the disruption it would have or would cause.  The UK has a tradition of parliamentary democracy, characterised by a powerful executive branch (White, 2022).  Introducing a written constitution would signify a substantial power transfer from the executive to the judiciary.  This would fundamentally change how politics is done within the UK.  Additionally, the UK legal system is predicated on common law and developed by judicial decision-making, not legislation.  This means common law has already enshrined many principles pertinent to a written constitution.


Q2. "What, in your view, would be the major advantages and disadvantages of committing our constitutional principles to paper?"

The UK would share many advantages and disadvantages applicable to countries formalising constitutional principles to paper.  However, there are nuanced considerations unique to the UK context.

Perhaps most advantageously, a written constitution would offer the UK increased accountability and predictability of mitigating the danger of exercising executive power arbitrarily or discriminatorily.  It is worth noting that although the executive branch is not the only source of power within the UK, it remains the most powerful compared to the others (Blackburn, 2015).  The executive branch shapes citizens’ rights and liberties into law.  However, theoretically, enough political will could fundamentally weaken those rights through Acts of Parliament or amendments.  This is remarkably prescient following the aftermath of Brexit, wherein employment regulations set by the European Union (EU) have been amendable within the UK since 2021, providing “they do not create an unfair advantage” (Taylor, 2021).

Arguably the most significant disadvantage of a UK-written constitution would be the risk of centralising more power in London.  Such concentration of power could undermine the impact of the devolved nations (Wales, Scotland, and Northern Ireland).  Such a departure from tradition would require enormous social and political consensus as it would transform how laws and principles are formed in the UK.


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