Parliamentary sovereignty and popular sovereignty in the UK constitution

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Rivka Weill claims that in the nineteenth century the foundation of the UK constitution changed from parliamentary sovereignty to popular sovereignty, originally as a matter of constitutional convention but today as a matter of law. I argue, to the contrary, that parliamentary sovereignty as a legal principle and popular sovereignty as a political principle are perfectly compatible. Constitutional conventions are essentially political not legal requirements. Therefore, a constitutional convention requiring popular approval of constitutional change, if it ever existed, would not have violated parliamentary sovereignty. But if it did exist, it was displaced by the Parliament Act 1911 and has not been revived since. Moreover, there is no evidence that courts today have legal authority to enforce any requirement, conventional or legal, requiring such approval.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)273-293
Number of pages21
JournalThe Cambridge law journal
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2022


  • 1949
  • A.V. Dicey
  • constitutional convention
  • Parliament Acts 1911
  • parliamentary sovereignty
  • popular sovereignty
  • referendums
  • UK constitution

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