War, International Law and the Rise of Parliament - The Influence of International Law on UK Parliamentary Practice with Respect to the Use of Force

iCourts Working Paper Series, No. 210, 2020

23 Pages Posted: 16 Oct 2020

See all articles by Veronika Fikfak

Veronika Fikfak

University of Copenhagen - iCourts - Centre of Excellence for International Courts

Date Written: August 27, 2020

Abstract

In foreign relations law, the power to wage war is inherently an executive power. It is the government that declares war or sends the military forces into battle. Yet, increasingly, the prerogative to engage in military action has been open to scrutiny by domestic parliaments. These are more and more frequently asked to provide support for the Government in its decisions and to the military personnel on the ground. The votes in national parliaments provide legitimacy to the decision made and give the impression of the Government having been held to account by the people’s representatives. In some cases, ie when national parliaments had effectively vetoed the Government’s plans for military actions, there is even talk of a quasi-sharing of powers between the Executive and the Legislature.

The paper tracks the decline of ‘government’ and the rise of the ‘house’ in the language used in the debates in the UK Parliament. It reveals how the terminology used in the debates has shifted from the power of the Government to the responsibility of the House. It maps out how this shift is mirrored in the increased relevance of international law and specifically the legality of the military intervention. It is this question – and particularly the experience of Iraq – that has reshaped the position of the UK Parliament vis-à-vis the Government. The investigation also reveals that as more and more MPs become involved and informed on issues of war, the deference shown to international institutions and their evaluation of the situation declines. MPs become more confident and more competent to make these decisions themselves.

Keywords: International Law, Military Action, Use of Force, United Kingdom, Foreign Affairs

Suggested Citation

Fikfak, Veronika, War, International Law and the Rise of Parliament - The Influence of International Law on UK Parliamentary Practice with Respect to the Use of Force (August 27, 2020). iCourts Working Paper Series, No. 210, 2020, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3681923 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3681923

Veronika Fikfak (Contact Author)

University of Copenhagen - iCourts - Centre of Excellence for International Courts ( email )

Studiestraede 6
Copenhagen, DK-1455
Denmark

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