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Constitution of the United Kingdom

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It is often said that the Constitution of the United Kingdom is unwritten. That is not strictly correct. The United Kingdom has an uncodified constitution, which means it is not all contained in a single document. There are several sources of the constitution, some being written down and some not.

Key principles

The key principles of the constitution are its underlying features. The two most important principles have existed for a very long time, since the creation of Parliament. They were identified by the constitutional lawyer, A.V. Dicey as the twin pillars of the constitution:

  1. Parliamentary sovereignty (Parliament is the supreme law making body), and
  2. Rule of law (everyone is equal before the law).

Other important principles are:

  • Unitary state (power lies at the centre),
  • Constitutional monarchy, and
  • European Union membership, the principle that EU law takes precedence over UK law. This principle was famously identified in the Factortame case in which the Merchant Shipping Act 1988 was overturned. This appears to undermine the principle of Parliamentary sovereignty, but Parliament could still withdraw from the EU by repealing the European Communities Act 1972, so in a way Parliamentary sovereignty is preserved.


There are several sources of the constitution. Not all of the sources are written down (for example, some are contained in conventions), but is incorrect to say the UK has an "unwritten constitution" because much of it is written down.

The main sources of the constitution are:

Among the many key statutes or conventions are:

See also

Last updated: 02-19-2005 19:27:46
Last updated: 04-29-2005 17:05:28