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The main differences between the US and UK constitution is that one is unitary and uncodified where as the other is not” Discuss

A constitution is a broad set of rules and principles by which a country can be governed by. It is concerned with the roles of legislature, executive and judiciary etc. A codified constitution is a written in paper where as the UK’s constitution is uncodified which is brought together by different sources. .There are therefore many differences between the two constitution, for example the Codified constitution is entrenched where as the uncodified constitution can be easily modified. Nevertheless the differences between the two constitutions are diminishing away as time goes on.

The UK constitution is uncodified because it comes from many different sources yet it is unitary compared to the federal government In the US. The main sources of the constitution are the statue laws which are acts of Parliament, these have to be followed as these are the laws of UK. Another source of the constitution is common laws, these are made by the judges when they are interpreting the constitution on acts of parliament for example fishing rights or gathering frits. The constitution is also made up of conventions which are how things have always been done. E.g. The prime minister can ask for dissolution of parliament. EU laws are also a source of the UK constitution as if any Law of or act of parliament that clashes with the EU law, the UK law is automatically eliminated e.g. the Factortame case in 1991 on Merchant Shipping law. In addition the constitution is also based upon political historical documents like Magna Carta or authorities such as Bagehot and Dicey.

However the US constitution is codified and written down in one document so is entrenched. This is why it is hard to amend the US constitution because over the past 200 years only 27 amendments have been made over the years. The amendment process is long and hard as in order to get an amendment to the constitution through as a majority of 2/3 of the congress need to agree as well as 3/4 of the states. But this makes the constitution out of date as it was written many years ago and things aren’t the same anymore. But this is good to an extent as the rights of the civilians are protected so can’t be taken away from them.

The US constitutions is really quiet rigid compared to the UK constitution which is easy to modify, showing that there are still a lot of differences between the two constitution. As the UK constitution comes from different sources it is easy to chop and change. For example during the Tony Blair was easily able to pass a gun control law after the Dumblane massacre. But after the 9/11 and other various effects Bush was unsuccessful to pass a gun control legislation through.

The UK constitution is unitary because of Parliamentary sovereignty and the centralised executive. Parliamentary sovereignty is when the Parliament is the main decision making body and there is no higher body than the parliament.



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