Weekly briefing: Threats to the rule of law in the UK

A weekly round-up of relevant IEP data providing insight into the world around us.

Friday, 27 September 2019: British MPs returned to work this week after the Supreme Court ruled Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s bid to shut down Parliament was unlawful. While Johnson asserted that the suspension was a routine break, other parliamentarians and the Supreme Court denounced the move as a restriction on Parliament preventing a ‘no-deal’ Brexit. Political rulings on the actions of the Parliament or the executive government are uncommon in the UK. The uncodified constitution of the UK maintains parliament as supreme. Historically, the court has limited the unlawful use of prerogative powers in parliament when they are in breach of statute. No statute had been broken in this case. To enable this ruling, the court decided that the length of the suspension prevented Parliament from holding the executive to account on Brexit. The leader of House of Commons Jacob Rees-Mogg called the decision a “constitutional coup”. The rule of law and separation of powers are indeed, stretched thin.

UK by the numbers

45 – rank out of 163 countries on the GPI

28 – rank out of 138 countries on the GTI

28 – domestic Safety and Security ranking out of 163 countries

How to measure a well-functioning government

A well-functioning government delivers high-quality public and civil services, engenders trust and participation, demonstrates political stability and upholds the rule of law.

The Institute for Economics and Peace (IEP) measures the effectiveness of government in three ways.  To consider whether a democratic political culture exists, IEP looks at whether the electoral process, civil liberties, functioning of government, political participation and the general culture supports secular democracy. To measure government effectiveness, perceptions of the quality of public services, the quality of the civil service and the degree of its independence from political pressures, the quality of policy formulation and implementation, and the credibility of the government’s commitment to such policies are all considered. Examining the rule of law involves considering the extent to which agents have confidence in, and abide by, the rules of society, and in particular the quality of contract enforcement, property rights, the police, the courts, as well as the likelihood of crime and violence.

In Europe, deteriorations in Low levels of Corruption and Well-Functioning Government have been driven by a lack of faith in institutions and rising nationalist and populist views.

Populist views promote an anti-establishment agenda aimed at questioning the policies of mainstream political parties and their ideologies, as well as an opposition to immigration or multiculturalism in general. This is complemented by nationalistic policies that place the emphasis on “national interest.” and away from integration with regional blocs in the UK evidenced by the United Kingdom Independence Party.