Identity and influence: A role for the rule of law in strengthening British national identity and maintaining the UK’s soft power

The rule of law has a part to play in defining and reinforcing Britishness, an especially important task for a country facing questions about its role in the world and internal challenges over unity. In this report, we lay out steps to restabilising the rule of law in the UK, to strengthen internal unity and ensuring that it remains a key “soft power” asset for the UK.

Key findings
  • The rule of law is recognised as vitally important by the vast majority of British citizens: 83% agreed that the rule of law is “essential” for a free and democratic society, while 74% agreed that it is “essential“ for a successful economy.
  • Many also see that it is central to the UK’s international standing, with 67% saying that they do care that the UK is seen by others as adhering to the rule of law.
  • However, only 16% view the rule of law as an important emblem of British identity.
  • Nevertheless, there is scope for the rule of law to play a more central role in bolstering Britishness because it is a point of “cultural overlap” between the peoples of the UK and it has been a key driver of the “mutual economic advantage” that the people of the UK have enjoyed over centuries. Additionally, there are growing risks to the UK’s international reputation if people in other countries become more aware of the erosion of the rule of law in the UK through the persistent problems in the civil and criminal courts.
  • Improving the situation will require the people to see and experience more practical benefits from the law than they do currently, e.g. the courts more effectively delivering security for communities from crime and easy access to channels for effective and fair resolution of legal disputes.
  • Develop a UK-wide understanding of the rule of law that all of the nations of the UK can coalesce around. The key tenets of this mutual accord over the rule of law should be: access, clarity, equality, fidelity and security.
  • Reinvigorate citizenship teaching in all British schools – lessons should impart a clear understanding of the rule of law, its long history in this country and the legal traditions of the three legal systems of the UK.
  • Reduce the “civil justice gap” in England and Wales by improving access to the civil courts for individuals, families and businesses through making them world leading by 2030.
  • Transform the efficacy and efficiency of the criminal courts in England and Wales, such that they become world-leading by 2030.


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