I hesitated whether this should come in this series of articles or not as it is a short piece, linked to an article by an historian who is most definitely not a Conservative and raises a question about modern politics. However, the article by Linda Colley, the well known historian, links present day arguments to Magna Carta and who am I to disagree with that.

The article is well worth reading in full as it quotes various constitutional historians and thinkers with great verve and knowledge. Essentially, Professor Colley argues that Britain's exceptionalism in that the country with some of the oldest constitutional documents in modern history has no written constitution has to be brought to an end. Britain must have a written constitution, especially as, Professor Colley argues, Scotland is probably about to have one.

There are one or two points on which I disagree with Professor Colley if I may be so bold and, indeed, insolent. In the first place, the idea of an independent Scotland has been put on what might be called a back burner since the referendum in which the Scots voted with a handsome majority in favour of staying in the United Kingdom. In any case, the offer of independence within the EU was a constitutional oxymoron.

Secondly, it is not entirely true that Britain has no written constitution. She does not have a single constitutional document along the lines of the United States Constitution and it might be a very good idea to acquire one. I see no particular need for a Constitution like the French one, which has been re-written on a number of occasions and that applies to most others that are around. But the American one is important, particularly as it and its first ten Amendments, better known as the Bill of Rights, utilized many English ideas.

Britain has a series of constitutional documents, of which Magna Carta is the first (well, more or less) and one of the most important ones. There are many others and the present government is suggesting that we should add to it with a new Bill of Rights. I wonder if Professor Colley agrees with that idea. Somehow I suspect that she might prefer the Human Rights Act and its overarching document the European Charter of Human Rights. But I may be wrong.

That brings me to the most important problem: we do, as it happens have a written Constitution and that is the Consolidated European Treaties, which are the Constitution for the EU and its Member States. For some reason Professor Colley does not refer to it.

Whether we need a single written constitution or not (and that needs to be discussed) there is no point to it while we are in the European Union, while European legislation comes above British Parliamentary legislation, while the ECJ and the ECHR are considered to be superior to British courts and while the Consolidated Treaties remain the overarching constitutional document. Is Professor Colley arguing for Brexit?


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