The Supreme Court's Renewed Interest in Autochthonous Constitutionalism

[2015] Public Law 394

9 Pages Posted: 19 Aug 2014 Last revised: 2 Dec 2015

See all articles by Scott Stephenson

Scott Stephenson

University of Melbourne - Law School

Date Written: August 18, 2014


Four recent cases point to a subtle yet significant shift in the UK Supreme Court’s approach to the relationship between the UK Constitution and European law. In them, a number of judges make comments signalling their intention to provide greater protection for longstanding domestic constitutional principles from the encroachment of European law and to place less reliance on European law to resolve controversies before the courts. In short, they indicate a renewed interest in autochthonous constitutionalism — that is, asserting the primacy, relevance and sufficiency of the UK Constitution.

Lords Neuberger and Mance indicate that the European Communities Act 1972 does not necessarily take priority over other domestic principles of constitutional significance contained in statutes and the common law in R (HS2 Action Alliance Ltd) v Secretary of State for Transport. Lords Mance, Reed and Toulson privilege the common law over the Human Rights Act 1998 as a source of rights protection and chastise claimants for reliance on the latter in Osborn v Parole Board, Kennedy v Charity Commission and A v British Broadcasting Corporation.

Keywords: UK Constitution, UK Supreme Court, European Law, Common Law Rights, Human Rights Act 1998, European Communities Act 1972, HS2, Osborn, Kennedy, A v BBC

JEL Classification: K00

Suggested Citation

Stephenson, Scott, The Supreme Court's Renewed Interest in Autochthonous Constitutionalism (August 18, 2014). [2015] Public Law 394, Available at SSRN:

Scott Stephenson (Contact Author)

University of Melbourne - Law School ( email )

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