Hold union together with something ‘more robust than consent’, says law professor

21 Apr 2021 3 minutes Read
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The union should be held together with “something rather more robust” than “consent”, according to a law professor.

Adam Tomkins, who is a Professor of Law at the University of Glasgow, argued that the UK needed a new Act of Union as a “constitutional safeguard”.

Professor Tomkins, who is also a Senior Fellow at Policy Exchange, suggested that regarding the UK as a “voluntary union” is “not normal”.

He cited the example of Spain where the courts ruled that it was unlawful for Catalonia to hold a vote on independence.

The Spanish Government has been condemned because of violent crackdown by police against protesters and for throwing Catalonian political leaders in jail for holding an independence referendum.

The professor added that the law could be used to “impose obligations on governments and public bodies” to “act with fidelity towards” the “territorial integrity of the country”.

‘Force of law’ 

He wrote in The Spectator: “For the last century the United Kingdom has regarded itself as a voluntary union of four home nations. Consent, rather than the force of law, has been the glue that has held us together.

“This is not normal. Most countries hold themselves together with something rather more robust.

“In Spain, the courts, applying the constitution, ruled that it was unlawful for Catalan separatists even to hold a vote on Catalan independence.

“In the United States the position would be even stricter. Its leading case on the law of secession was admittedly decided in the immediate aftermath of the US Civil War, but the US Supreme Court’s authoritative decision on the matter was unequivocal.

“When a state becomes one of the United States it enters into ‘an indissoluble relation’ that is ‘final’, the Court ruled. There is ‘no place for reconsideration, or revocation, except through revolution’ or with the consent of the United States.”

He added: “The United Kingdom needs a new Act of Union to set out, authoritatively, the rare circumstances in which one part of the country can seek lawfully to secede.

“As well as defining how frequently referendums on such a matter may be held, the law could at the same time impose obligations on governments and public bodies throughout the land to act with fidelity towards — and not to undermine — the territorial integrity of the country.

“Nationalists will howl with rage at this proposal. In response to them I would just gently point out that their beloved European Union includes within its treaties a like provision: ‘Member states shall facilitate the achievement of the Union’s tasks and refrain from any measure which could jeopardise the attainment of the Union’s objectives’.

“Time to copy and paste this idea from the EU’s rulebook into our own: ‘devolved administrations shall facilitate the achievement of the United Kingdom’s tasks and refrain from any measure which could jeopardise the attainment of the United Kingdom’s objectives’. What Europhile Nationalist could object to that?”

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Charles L. Gallagher
Charles L. Gallagher
19 days ago

So Adam, how did the Tories get away with it, are you implying/stating that ‘Brexit’ was illegal?

19 days ago

Why confine the question to Brexit ? Just as relevant to everything that went before.

19 days ago

He means the EU had specific laws on HOW a member can leave.
Not a law on making sure no one can leave.
So he’s suggesting the UK gov to make laws defining how a celtic nation can leave the union, how often they can hold referenda etc etc.
Basically, laws to control the others.

Alastair Ewen
Alastair Ewen
19 days ago

Adam Tomkins, walloper…..

Kathleen Walker
19 days ago

British fascists endorse English domination of the Uk. Freedom for Celtic nations!

18 days ago

Next he’ll suggest that a simple majority vote would seal the deal. And we all know how well that works. If anyone wants to go down that route we’ll need at least 10 years of proportional representation for St Stephan first…. and then have another think about it.

William Habib Steele
William Habib Steele
16 days ago

Since the Treaty of Union is one between sovereign, independent countries, the Treaty of 1707 would need to be resiled for a new Treaty of Union to be created. A new Treaty of Union presupposes that the countries become independent. Then they could decide to create a new one, OR NOT!

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