Constitutional Reform in Britain and France: from human rights to Brexit

Elizabeth Gibson-Morgan

£95, University of Wales Press

This book is an academic comparison of the constitutional frameworks of France and the UK. Writing from a Welsh standpoint, thus making the book more interesting because it adds a devolved perspective, the author seeks to find similarities between the constitutions and concludes by asking whether we need a new entente cordiale.

We have to be grateful for the entente, which probably owed as much to Edward VII’s social life as to diplomacy, for putting an end to centuries of conflict between our  countries. Perhaps Europe would have been better if we had kept out of continental politics.

It was very interesting to read about the French legal system, which probably does many things better than ours. Both the French legal profession and their legal aid system are well respected. However, the workings of the French constitution are not well known in this country.

This book does not make a convincing case for a written constitution. Since the French Revolution there has been, on average, a new constitution every 14 years. Our constitution, which is based on “make it up as you go along”, seems better.

I would have liked some more history, which would be helpful to people unfamiliar with the background, and more on both countries’ treatment of colonies.

Also, I am not sure that De Gaulle was nearly assassinated for his use of legal powers, or that the introduction of an elected mayor in Leicester is a constitutional change.

Having said that, this book is a unique consideration of two very different systems. The issue of how we handle the protection of basic rights, and where political power is concentrated, is highly relevant of course – and this book is a welcome addition to the debate.

David Pickup is a partner at Pickup and Scott Solicitors, Aylesbury