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Books in brief

Beyond Brexit: Towards a British Constitution by Vernon Bogdanor (IB Tauris, £20)

The late Lord Bingham once said that “constitutionally speaking, we find ourselves in a trackless desert without any map or compass.” His words still ring true today. Britain’s arrangements are notoriously ad-hoc when compared with other democracies, which codify their rules into single documents. Our constitution, such as it is, was cobbled together over centuries and is a patchwork of precedent and convention.

In his new book, Vernon Bogdanor says that departure from Europe will scramble things even more. As Britain’s foremost expert in the field, he is worth listening to. Bogdanor pulls apart Britain’s numerous constitutional frailties. There have long been serious ambiguities over the role of parliament, the courts and the devolved assemblies. Add to this the question over what rights Britons actually have, and who is protecting them, and the level of uncertainty becomes clear. Then there are referendums.

In Bogdanor’s view, the EU glued things together. But with Britain leaving, we are travelling from a “protected” to an “unprotected” constitution. Vulnerabilities are being exposed—see the controversy over Northern Ireland.

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About Prospect Magazine

In Prospect’s April issue: Mark Damazer, the former controller of BBC Radio 4, tells the inside story of how the BBC has tried—and sometimes failed—to cover the political crisis that overshadows everything else. Elsewhere in the issue: Playwright and screenwriter James Graham profiles John Bercow, the Speaker of the House of Commons, as he takes centre-stage in the unfolding Brexit drama and Tom Clark examines the Independent Group and argues that they could well shake up the established political tribes. Also, Jennifer Williams highlights the growing gap between the haves and have-nots in Manchester—a city that is simultaneously experiencing a housing boom and a homelessness crisis.