Two Tensions: How International Law Fails to Properly Address Secession

Even in seemingly stable political communities such as the EU or the UK, secessionist movements regularly put forward their claims for independence. This poses a challenge for both constitutional and international law. The first challenge is that state creation is both political and legal. No right to self-determination or secession – even if it exists, which in most cases it does not – relieves a separatist movement of the duty to make and sustain their case politically. The second challenge is rooted the current substance of international law on secession. In 2022, the UK Supreme Court found that international law does not help Scotland’s case for independence. This illustrates the argument that international law on its own is not the main legal space in which secessionist pressures find accommodation. On the contrary, constitutional arrangements currently seem more important than international law. Continue reading