Boris, Brexit and Bishops

… or the Statute of Praemunire 

In his speech to the Conservative Party Conference today, Boris Johnson suggested that the Prime Minister risked prosecution under a 14th century law saying that “no foreign court or government shall have jurisdiction in this country” , i.e. The Statute of Praemunire (16 Ric 2 c 5), enacted in 1392. As we noted in a post last year in relation to the appointment of the Bishop of Sheffield,

S5 Cathedrals Measure 1999 requires the college to perform the functions conferred by the Appointment of Bishops Act 1533 under which they must “with all spede and seleritie in due forme electe and chose the seid person named in the seid letters myssyves to the dignitie and office ofthe Archebishopriche or Bishopriche soo being voyde”.

Bob Morris of UCL has suggested that:

“in its original form, the Act laid down that the sovereign could in effect order cathedral chapters to elect the sovereign’s nominee on pain of praemunire. Since the removal of that ancient sanction in 1967 and the substitution of Colleges of Canons for the previous arrangements, the crown’s requirements are nowadays issued to the College. …”

[Frank Cranmer, John Lucas and Bob Morris, Church and State, A Mapping Exercise(2006, The Constitution Unit, UCL, London)]”.

The above sanctions came into play “yf they doo deferre or delay theire eleccion above xij [12] dayes next after suche licence andletters myssyves to theym delyvered“.

Chapter 5 of the Statute of Praemunire was repealed by section 13 of, and Part I of Schedule 4 to, the Criminal Law Act 1967, the repeal of this Chapter extending to Northern Ireland. The entire 1392 Statute was repealed for the Republic of Ireland by section 1 of, and Part 2 of the Schedule to, the Statute Law Revision Act 1983.

So Mrs May has little to fear from that particular legislation; and neither do the Colleges of Canons.

Cite this article as: David Pocklington, "Boris, Brexit and Bishops" in Law & Religion UK, 2 October 2018,

3 thoughts on “Boris, Brexit and Bishops

  1. Somehow I doubt that Boris Johnson has ever heard of (let alone read) Schedule 4 to the Criminal Law Act 1967 [Repeals(Obsolete Crimes)]. However, his reference to the Statute of Praemunire as if it were still in force is further evidence of his unfitness to be prime minister. Even if the Statute had not been expressly repealed by the 1972 Act, there is a respectable argument (which Lord Denning would have supported) that it was impliedly repealed, so far as the EEC/EU is concerned, by the European Communities Act 1972.

  2. If the 1392 Praemunire Statute was not repealed in Dáil Éireann until 1983 to what extent could it be said that it (or any other unrepealed English or British law) was still “the law” in an independent state though not enforced?

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