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UK and International Law

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United Kingdom, particularly Britain, maintains International Law based on two principals:

  • Customary Rules of International Law
  • Treaties

Customary Rules of International Law

  • Britain adopts the customary rules of International Law in its internal law on when the are not inconsistent with internal law.
  • When the highest court declares a decision regarding the policy about the relationship between International Law and internal law, the subordinate courts should adopt the decision.
  • International Law is given priority during interpretation of law by courts.
  • Courts have no authority to question the Crown when it recognizes a State. i.e Acts of State do not come under the purview of Courts.


British Parliament is superior person and has power to enter into treaties with other countries. Parliament consent is necessary when Britain cedes its territory.

Related Case Laws

  • R. vs Keyn (1876)
  • Mortensen vs Peters (1906)
  • Ostime vs Australian Mutual Provident Society (1960)

The Parlement Belge (1878)

  • The Parlement Belge (1879) L. R. 4 Prob. Div. 129 is an action instituted on behalf of the owners of a steam tug against the steamship Parlement Belge and her freight
  • The action was to recover damages sustained by the tug in a collision with the steamship.
  • The latter vessel was, at the time of the collision and when the action was instituted, a public vessel of the government of the sovereign state of Belgium, navigated and employed by and in the possession of such government, and officered by officers of the royal Belgium navy, holding commissions from His Majesty the King of Belgium, and in the pay and service of his government.
  • Besides carrying the mails between Dover and Ostend, tug also carried passengers and merchandise, and was employed in earning passagemoney and freight.
  • Sir Robert Phillimore declared (p. 144) that the case was one of first impression, and to be decided upon general principles and the analogies of law, rather than upon any direct precedent, and it was held that The Parlement Belge did not come within the category of a ship of war or a pleasure vessel belonging to the [179 U.S. 552, 570] Crown of Belgium, and was not exempt from the process of the court.
  • On appeal, however, (1880) (L. R. 5 Prob. Div. 197,) it was held that:
    • the admiralty court was concluded by the declaration of the sovereign authority that the vessel was a public vessel of the state, and, further,
    • that the mere fact of the ship having been used subordinately for trading purposes did not take away the immunity attaching to the public vessel of an independent sovereignty, and that
    • the vessel could not be proceeded against