A constitution means established precedents or fundamental principles which are followed to govern a country. Every independent state has a constitution which is its fundamental law according to which the domestic laws are framed. It’s the supreme law.
The Constitutions of the USA and the UK are the most popular constitutions in the world. They have served as epitomes of a perfect fundamental law for decades and have been followed by many countries in framing their constitutions. They are based on two entirely different political systems.
The key differences between US Constitution and British Constitution are as follows:
Difference in nature
The US Constitution is in black and white, i.e. it’s a written document. The British Constitution, on the other hand, is unwritten and doesn’t have a proper codified form.
The Difference in the form of Government
In the US, there’s presidential form of government whereas the UK has parliamentary system based on constitutional monarchy.
Difference in Houses
The US political system is based on two houses:
- The House of Representatives
- The Senate
On the other hand, the British political system also has two houses which are:
- House of Lords
- House of Commons
The US Constitution is rigid and very hard to amend. The process of its amendment involves the following two steps:
- Proposal- The amendments are proposed by two-thirds of the Senate members and the members of the House of Representatives.
- Ratification- The proposal is then ratified after three-fourths of the total members agrees to it. In the past 200 years, there have only been 27 amendments in the US Constitution so far.
The British Constitution, on the other hand, is unwritten and it doesn’t require any rigid process to initiate amendments.
Under the US Constitution, the President is established as the Head of the State who is the executive head whereas the British Queen is the head of the State too but not the executive head because the Queen reigns but doesn’t rule.
Separation of Powers
All the three organs of government i.e. the legislature, executive and judiciary are independent of one another in the British political system, whereas the concept of separation of powers isn’t absolute in the US Constitution due to presence of checks and balances which means that all these organs can interfere in the functions of one another to scrutinize and prevent the exploitation of powers.
Nature of Democratic System
The democratic system of government in the US is based on two-party democracy whereas there’s multi party system in the UK.
The politicians in the USA openly criticize each other in both the Houses by rendering the actions of other members unconstitutional, whereas in the UK, the political discourses are free of these criticisms and arguments.
In the US, elections take place every four years where the President is elected by the Electoral College. The members of the Senate are elected every 6 years and the House of Representative members every 2 years.
Contrary to the above, in the UK, the parliamentary elections take place every five years.
Number of States
In the USA, there’s a concept of federation. Which means the federal power lies with the center and there are fifty States that enjoy their autonomy under the Constitution. In the UK, there are four countries namely, Scotland, Ireland, England and Wales. All these countries collectively form a single nation which makes the UK a unitary state as compared to the USA.
Key Facts about US and British Constitution:
- According to Cable News Network (CNN), The US Constitution consists of seven articles, 27 amendments (added in 1992) and a preamble.
- “The first three articles of the Constitution set up the federal system by dividing power between three branches of government - the legislative, executive and judicial. “(CNN)
- “The Fourth and Tenth Amendments ensure states' rights and separate the federal and state governments.” (CNN)
- “Federal powers listed in the Constitution include the right to collect taxes, declare war and regulate trade. The federal government has implied powers that allow the government to respond to changing needs of the nation.” (CNN)
- “Unlike most modern states, Britain does not have a codified constitution but an unwritten one formed of Acts of Parliament, court judgments and conventions.” Professor Robert Blackburn
- “The Parliament Acts (1911–49) that regulate the respective powers of the two Houses of Parliament.” Professor Robert Blackburn
- “The Representation of the People Acts (1918) (as amended) providing for universal voting and other matters of political representation.” Professor Robert Blackburn
- “The European Communities Act (1972) making the UK a legal partner in the European Union.” Professor Robert Blackburn