The UK’s inherently living constitution

The UK’s constitution always was ‘living’. We enjoyed no constitutional entrenchment: Parliament could, famously, make or unmake any law, it was bound by no predecessor and could not bind its successors. We lacked judicially enforceable rights in any sense: even breaches of supranational human rights protections could not trump Parliament. The constitution was thus living in the sense that each government could bend the constitution to its will. Change began with the UK’s accession to the EU in the 1970s. This required courts to disapply Acts of Parliament. Thus started a cavalcade of constitutional amendment – power was devolved downwards to the nations, while being limited through judicial enforcement of fundamental rights. The new state of affairs crystallised in the 2015 HS2 case. It was recognised we have a deeper level of entrenched constitutional statutes. It is only now our judges begin to grapple with ‘constitutional’ interpretation. We have much to learn from foreign friends.