Writing the United Kingdom Constitution

By Brice Dickson

Writing the United Kingdom Constitution


  • eBook

Book Information

  • Format: Hardcover
  • ISBN: 978-1-5261-3193-5
  • Pages: 128
  • Publisher: Manchester University Press
  • Price: £12.99
  • Published Date: July 2019
  • BIC Category: HISTORY / Europe / Great Britain / 21st Century, POLITICAL SCIENCE / Comparative Politics, POLITICAL SCIENCE / General, Humanities / British & Irish history, Society & social sciences / Politics & government, Politics, United Kingdom, Great Britain, Constitution: government & the state, Society & social sciences / Central government
  • Series: Pocket Politics


Our unwritten Constitution is past its sell-by date. If the Union is to be preserved we must recognise the UK as a federal country along the lines of Canada and Australia, and soon.

Such is the argument made by Brice Dickson in this lucid and timely intervention to the debate on Britain's political future. A federal structure, he reasons, could maximise the benefits of cooperation between semi-autonomous regions while at the same time paying due respect to the nationalisms that exist within constituent parts of the country.

The devolution of powers to the home nations, coupled with the trials and tribulations associated with Brexit and reform of the House of Lords, point to grave risks in the UK's current constitutional position. Dickson proposes a Constitutional Reform Act which would federalise the nation, provide a modern Bill of Rights, formalise allocation of public expenditure to devolved regions, and contain a clause setting out the 'purpose' of the UK.

The UK has an enviable record in rising to a variety of challenges down the centuries, but the fallout from our recent history makes greater certainty and predictability imperative. This urgent analysis by one of our leading constitutional experts points to how that might best be achieved.


'Brexit has heated-up the debate about the merits and defects of our constitution, whether we should do something about it, and if so what. Brice Dickson makes a characteristically thoughtful and stimulating contribution to the discussion.' - Lord Pannick QC

'Brice Dickson argues that now, post Brexit, our constitution needs to cement the Union. He's right. We don't need a fully written constitution, but we do need seriously to address and respond to the forces that are pulling the four home nations apart. The United Kingdom's survival depends on it.' - Adam Tomkins MSP, Professor of Law, University of Glasgow

'The turmoil surrounding Brexit has caused many to doubt whether the UK's uncodified constitution is still fit for purpose. Brice Dickson plausibly suggests that a new, federal constitutional settlement may offer a way forward. Here we have a masterly essay by a highly respected constitutional analyst, who possesses the rare gift of elucidating complex issues without ever dumbing them down.' - Gavin Drewry, Emeritus Professor of Public Administration, Royal Holloway, University of London

'In recent years, a number of jurists and academics have argued that Britain needs to follow almost every other democracy by enacting a codified constitution. Are they right? The debate is likely to intensify after Brexit. Writing the United Kingdom Constitution offers an excellent introduction to the issues.' - Vernon Bogdanor, Professor of Government, Kings College London, author of Beyond Brexit: Towards a British Constitution

'Brice Dickson believes that a full-blown written constitution would unleash an endless debate of irreconcilable demands. Instead, he urges a new Constitutional Reform Act to enshrine an acknowledged constitutional federation so as to keep the component parts together in a Union that is looking rather fragile of late. Federalism, well-designed, can help preserve unity to the extent desired but also to respect diversity and distinctiveness appropriate to the parts . If the UK is to survive as such, it needs an acknowledged federal form of government. If the only way to attain that objective is to enact a minimalist model, Dickson's ideas command close attention. The ideas in this book are as important as they are urgent.' - The Hon Michael Kirby. AC CMG, former Justice of the High Court of Australia


1 The Emergence of Our Unwritten Constitution
2 Proposals for a Written Constitution
3 Lessons from Elsewhere
4 The Protection of Rights and a Written Constitution
5 Federalisation and a Written Constitution
6 The Way Forward
Further reading


Brice Dickson is Professor of International and Comparative Law at Queen's University Belfast

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