United Kingdom

III - Changes to Constitutional Law

Nature national instruments 
What is the character of the legal instruments adopted at national level to implement Euro-crisis law (constitutional amendment, organic laws, ordinary legislation, etc)?

All legal instruments at national level are ordinary legislation but for the European Union (Approval of Treaty Amendment Decision) Bill 2012 a specific legislative procedure required under the European Union Act was followed (see questions on Treaty Amendment).

Constitutional amendment     
Have there been any constitutional amendments in response to the Euro-crisis or related to Euro-crisis law? Or have any amendments been proposed?

In the UK there is no written constitution, Parliament theoretically is sovereign and so there would be no need for any constitutional amendment to introduce any legislation if Parliament chose to do so.

Constitutional context  
If national constitutional law already contained relevant elements, such as a balanced budget rule or independent budgetary councils, before the crisis that are now part of Euro-crisis law, what is the background of these rules?

The Office of Budget Responsibility already existed before the need for a fiscal council became part of Euro-crisis law.

On 17 May 2010 the Chancellor of the Exchequer announced the formation of an interim Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR), led by a Budget Responsibility Committee (BRC). The interim Committee was chaired by Sir Alan Budd.

Purpose constitutional amendment       
What is the purpose of the constitutional amendment and what is its position in the constitution?

Not applicable.

Relationship with EU law           
Is the constitutional amendment seen as changing the relationship between national and European constitutional law?

Not applicable.          

Organic law   
Have there been changes to organic laws or other types of legislation that are of a different nature or level than ordinary legislation, in relation to Euro-crisis law or the budgetary process?

It’s difficult to say, the only change that could really exist would be that Parliamentary sovereignty has been further reduced. This itself is difficult to gauge, in part because control over the UK budget may be seen as a further loss of sovereignty over a new field or as further evidence that Parliament is no longer sovereign so long as Britain remains in the EU.

As McEldowney notes “the UK’s Constitution has shown remarkable resilience… Evaluating the long-term constitutional impact is both complex and confusing. Complex, because banking regulation is difficult to assess and the new regulatory arrangements have yet to be put into place; confusing, because constitutional responses are politically driven under a coalition government, unusual in modern times, and hard to evaluate in terms of their enduring legacy.”[1]

Constitutional amendment and ordinary law       
If ordinary legislation was adopted in conjunction with a constitutional amendment, what is the relationship between the two?

Not applicable.

Perception source of legal change 
In the public and political discussions on the adoption of ordinary legislation, what was the perception on the appropriate legal framework? Was the ordinary legislation seen as implementing national constitutional law, or Euro-crisis law?

The main piece of legislation adopted was the Loans to Ireland Act. In Parliament it was stressed that this was a bilateral loan, although fears were raised that the EU may gain jurisdiction over it (see section II.1)

What other information is relevant with regard to the United Kingdom and to changes to national (constitutional) law?


[1] McEldowney, J.F. ‘The Constitution and the Financial Crisis in the UK: Historical and Contemporary Lessons’ in Contiades (ed) Constitutions in the Global Financial Crisis (Ashgate, 2013)