Sources of the UK Constitution

Sources of the UK Constitution

Constitutional Statutes

  • Act of Union (1707), which unified the Kingdoms of Scotland and England to form Great Britain.
  • Parliament Act (1911 and 1949), which limited the power of the House of Lords.
  • European Communities Act (1972), which prioritised European law over UK law.
  • Human Rights Act (1998), which incorporated ECHR into UK law.
  • Constitutional Reform Act (2005), which established the UK Supreme Court and reformed the role of the Lord Chancellor.

Common Law

  • The system of law formed by the decisions of the judiciary (court judgments).
  • Important principles such as the rule of law and habeas corpus are rooted in common law.

Royal Prerogative

  • Autonomy held by the monarch, which is often exercised on advice of the Prime Minister or the Cabinet.
  • Examples include granting honours, signing treaties and declaring war.


  • Unwritten traditions which have guided the operations of the British political system.
  • Examples include cabinet government, parliamentary sovereignty, and the principle of collective responsibility.

Authoritative Works

  • Books discussing the UK Constitution that have influential status.
  • Examples include Walter Bagehot’s ‘The English Constitution’ and A.V. Dicey’s ‘Introduction to the Study of the Law of the Constitution’.

EU Laws and Treaties

  • Prior to Brexit, the European Union laws were a key source of the UK Constitution.
  • These laws and treaties, such as the Maastricht Treaty, had a direct impact on UK law.

International Law

  • The UK is signatory to a number of international treaties and obligations which effectively represent an aspect of the constitution.
  • Examples include United Nations agreements and the European Convention on Human Rights.