Abolishing the monarchy

Abolishing the monarchy isn't that complicated. It'll take some work, of course, but it's a well-worn path and the destination is worth the effort of getting there.

Parliament can abolish the monarchy overnight, if it wishes to. Of course that's not going to happen, for all sorts of reasons. But there is no constitutional barrier to abolishing the monarchy.

"Journalists describe royal events as historic ... but what would be more historic than the British people stepping up to the ballot box and declaring, 'No more monarchy, today we embrace democracy - today we are citizens, not subjects'?" 

Graham Smith in Abolish The Monarchy

In 2021 Barbados made the switch from monarchy to republic. While we have the added detail of scrapping the whole institution, rather than just separating from it, the process here in the UK wouldn't be much different. An Act of parliament would transfer Crown assets to the nation or parliament, the Crown would be abolished along with the position of monarch and other royal and aristocratic titles, and a new office of president would be established.

This would all be done after a referendum in which the people voted to ditch the monarchy. Once parliament passes the Act voters would return to the polls to choose a new head of state. The election would be followed shortly after by an inauguration ceremony and it's at that moment that the changes all come into force. The new, elected, head of state is sworn in, the old one - the monarch - leaves office and retires.

A similar process would take place for the introduction of an elected upper house. Elections are held and the day after results are announced all current Lords would lose their seats, replaced by elected representatives.

Not everything has to change

Becoming a republic is relatively simple for Britain, because the main building blocks are already in place. We simply take parliament and head of state and make both fully democratic. We would still have a prime minister at the head of government, we would still have the House of Commons and a second chamber, with elected representatives replacing the lords. We would still have a largely ceremonial head of state, but they would have certain limited powers that allow them to guard our constitution and enforce the rules of government.

Some people suggest that every law has to be unpicked, each one having references to the Crown or monarch removed and edited. That's not how this kind of change works. Since 1989 countless countries across Europe and elsewhere have made much bigger transitions from authoritarian regimes to democracies. They didn't rewrite or scrap every law that existed before they freed themselves from oppression.

Czechia, who elected  has managed this kind of transition twice, once when ditching communist rule as part of Czechoslovakia, and then when it separated from Slovakia just a couple of years later. 

Barbados gives a neat example of how it works. In the legislation that introduced the republic, they said "any reference to the Queen ... shall be read and construed as if it were a reference to the State," and "any reference to Crown lands shall be read and construed as a reference to State lands," and so on. A single paragraph overwrites all references to Crown or monarch.

Where existing laws contradict a new constitution, the new constitution automatically overrides the law. 

Britain is perfectly capable of drafting and agreeing a new constitution and changing to a republic.


Next: What will change