In light of the recent Brexit vote, I was curious as to whether parish councils could also call for something similar, with governing borough councils if they were seen to be negligent of said parish. For example could a parish council legally either trigger some legislation to move to another borough (or even become an independent district), or would this require a referendum of sorts, if at all possible.

  • Could you provide some more context or definitions for those of us not familiar with your terms and usage? When I read Parish, I automatically think Church - which begs the question of what this would have to do with local governments...
    – user7754
    Commented Sep 15, 2016 at 0:21
  • 2
    @Thomo You have to understand that the Common Law of England long pre-dates the Reformation, the Parliamentary Wars of the 1640s, the Glorious Revolution and Bill of Rights of 1688, and the Great Reform Act of 1832. There was a time when there was no distinction between the ecclesiastical and the secular and Parishes date from then. They are the oldest units of government in Britain. But nowadays they are entirely separate from the Church.
    – WS2
    Commented Sep 15, 2016 at 6:47
  • 1
    Possibly related: procedure for boundary changes; and this page mentions that parish boundaries can be changed by the district council. Commented Sep 15, 2016 at 9:36
  • @WS2 which is exactly why I asked for a clarification and/or definition for the those particular terms and usage, which Brythan kindly linked to with his edit. What with this being an international forum, to avoid confusion then those definitions should be given because those terms can mean different things to different people
    – user7754
    Commented Sep 15, 2016 at 22:30
  • @Thomo - this is clear that it is UK so the definitions are clear. If you get a US question do you want definitions of states as they are entities that are not common to most people?
    – mmmmmm
    Commented Sep 16, 2016 at 12:57

1 Answer 1


With the caveat that I do not believe any parish council has declared independence so the legal situation hasn't been tested, I believe the answer is as follows:

There is no legal basis for which a parish, borough, county or district can claim independence. That doesn't, however, mean that the law couldn't be changed to allow it.

On a larger scale, it is fundamentally no different to the situation with Scotland and the call for independence there. Currently, the law does not allow for Scotland to become independent, unilaterally, even though it has its own government. For it to become a properly independent nation, the Westminster parliament would have to enact the relevant legislation.

Brexit is somewhat different because there is an explicit mechanism for a nation to leave the EU: the now famous Article 50. Even there, the wording is commonly assumed to require an act of Parliament to invoke although this is by no means a universal interpretation.

One last point of clarification. In neither the Scottish nor EU independence cases was a referendum sufficient to actually invoke independence. In both cases it is legally, though probably not politically, possible for the government of the day to set the referendum result aside. So, unfortunately, the parish council independence referendum wouldn't be sufficient to declare the Independent Republic of Upper Hazelfordmere. Mores the pity.

  • Of course describing Scotland as having its own government gets complicated as well, given that from Westminster's point of view it's just another body to which parliament has chosen to devolve some decision making powers on certain issues. But then, I guess that's actually your point.
    – origimbo
    Commented Sep 19, 2016 at 13:21

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .