Accommodating Legal Pluralism and “Pluralizing” the Constitution: The Example of the United Kingdom

Conference paper
Part of the Ius Comparatum - Global Studies in Comparative Law book series (GSCL, volume 41)


This chapter argues that the forms that the normative encounter between domestic and supranational constitutionalism has taken in the United Kingdom (UK) are intertwined with fundamental domestic constitutional principles. Even as the UK legal order ceded ground to external normative sources as a matter of practical outcomes, the key national constitutional actors self-consciously justified this move, as a matter of formal constitutional principle, by express reference to domestic constitutional principles and sources. In the attempt to accommodate legal pluralism in the constitutional edifice of the UK, the constitutional architecture itself became more plural and textured. This constitutional reconfiguration is ongoing and has come to the forefront as the UK is currently at a moment of constitutional reckoning owing to Brexit. This maps onto a long-standing debate on the position of the UK in the international sphere, most notably with respect to the European Convention on Human Rights. The chapter argues that Brexit and similar impulses highlight the interface between domestic and external legal orders (international or supranational). This interface cannot be nullified easily, contrary to what some proponents of Brexit may have expected or wished for. Rather, these recent developments add impetus to constitutional self-reflection; instead of negating constitutional pluralism they move the inquiry to the domestic sphere forcing national constitutional actors to reflect explicitly on the forms that pluralism ought to take.



I wish to thank Tony Prosser for helpful comments on an earlier draft.


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© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2020

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University of BristolBristolUK

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