The Legal Holy Grail? German Lessons on Codification for a Fragmented Britain

10 May 2018

Codification seems to be coming back into vogue in Great Britain, especially in Wales and in Scotland as a result of devolution and a related (if possibly temporary) surge in nationalism. Using Germany as a comparator, we argue that a codification renaissance should be met with caution. By examining German literature on the history of codification, it can be seen that codification is a difficult transplant in Great Britain. In any event, the German experience shows that codification is no panacea. Furthermore, when it comes to codification, we are quite literally speaking a different language to continental lawyers. Codifying statutes, more achievable in the British jurisdictions than larger, continental-style codes, reflect a peculiarly British style of codification, but risk being the compromise that pleases nobody. A patchwork of substantive reform, consolidation and restatement is proposed as a more suitable domestic solution.