Influence of Devolution on the United Kingdom’s European Policy-Making: From Imperial to Post-imperial Solutions

Ministry of Science and Higher Education Research Grant No. N N116 712540 Chair of European Studies, Faculty of Journalism and Political Science, University of Warsaw


Project duration: April 2010–March 2015


Research team:

Franciszek Gołembski, Prof (Warsaw Military University of Technology - WAT) – Project Manager

Przemysław Biskup, PhD (Institute of European Studies, University of Warsaw) – Project Co-ordinator

Małgorzata Kaczorowska, PhD

Wojciech Lewandowsk, PhDi (Institute of European Studies, University of Warsaw)

Krzysztof Winkler, PhD (Research Group BRITANNIA)


Primary aim of the research project on the Influence of Devolution on the United Kingdom’s European Policy-Making: From Imperial to Post-imperial Solutions is to assess the contemporary and historical influence of decentralisation processes of the devolution model on the United Kingdom’s European policy-making.

Among specific aims of the project one may point the following tasks: first, the analysis of constitutional, legal and administrative history of the British Empire with emphasis laid on those solutions which were subsequently influencing the devolution process in the British Isles; secondly, the analysis of the influence of controlled reorganisation and decomposition of the British Empire on United Kingdom’s ability to participate in the integration projects in the continent of Europe and on the ways of forming coalitions and alliances within the European Union; and thirdly, the analysis of devolution’s influence on the institutional framework within which UK’s European policies are formed.

The research problem is of considerable degree of importance from the point of view of both theory and practice. In particular, the research shall improve understanding of the mechanism ruling the constitutional and political systems as well as the trans- and supranational integration processes. Moreover, the research also addresses the problem of relatively limited representation of the devolution in the scientific literature in Poland. This is so despite the fact that there are available some very interesting and valuable analyses regarding selected problems of the devolution.

Another important aim of the research is a comparative study of two distinctive traditions of perception and interpretation of the decentralisation processes: the continental and the Anglo-Saxon ones. Analysis of their constituent features and mutual influence is intended to present the devolution as one of key methods - deeply-rooted in the British political tradition and practice - of putting UK’s political aims into practice.

What is more, the analysis of functioning of the British Empire as a global political system also constitutes an important part of the project. In this context it is necessary to study the constitutional and administrative concepts developed in the course of construction, management and decline of the Empire and its overseas territories. The results of the study of imperial age will be compared with the theory and practice of modern post-imperial and metropolitan devolution process. We also intend to study the influence of the imperial devolution process on the UK’s contemporary relations with its former colonies on the example of Malta.

The presented research project has interdisciplinary character and concerns the complex problem of scientific importance that is falling into the scope of interest of such academic disciplines as the Political; Legal and European Studies.

The principal research theory is neo-institutionalism; hence the study will be focused on analysis of political, legal and administrative factors influencing the process of forming and putting into practice the UK’s European policies past and present. Moreover, taken unique and pivotal role of political, evolutionary and reformist solutions within the British constitutional system, functionalist approach finds application as a supporting theory. 

As a consequence, the following research methods need to be applied: the system analysis, the comparative analysis and the historical analysis. The system analysis is applied to studying of functioning of the UK’s political, constitutional and social-economic system, with emphasis on the role played by the devolution process therewith. The purpose of the comparative analysis is to characterise the specificity of the devolution process in the United Kingdom in comparison to decentralization processes in the Continental EU Members States. The subject of the historical analysis is the historical development of the devolution as well as the local and regional autonomy in Britain and their influence on UK’s European policies.

The realisation of the presented project will contribute to improved understanding of the meaning of devolution process for shaping the UK’s European policies and improved understanding of the very notion of devolution and devolution processes.

The findings will be disseminated in the academic papers and seminars. The project will be concluded by a monograph.