Comparative Foreign Relations Law and Democratic Accountability

Curtis Bradley and Joris Larik

This course will consider some of the legal issues common to constitutional democracies, as well as to the European Union (EU) as a supranational entity, in allocating authority in the conduct of foreign affairs.  These issues include the distribution of powers between the legislative and executive branches relating to topics such as the making and unmaking of treaties, the conduct of diplomatic relations, and the use of military force.  They also concern the constitutional and other questions that can arise when nations delegate sovereign authority to international institutions.  Moreover, in federal systems and in the EU, there are issues relating to the vertical distribution of authority between the federal/supranational whole and its constituent parts in situations in which foreign affairs are implicated.  The course will further consider the proper role of courts in addressing foreign affairs questions, including their role in applying international law.  Finally, the course will reflect on broader issues concerning the nature of foreign relations law as a field of study and the potential benefits and pitfalls of comparative research in this area, drawing in part on the findings of the forthcoming Oxford Handbook of Comparative Foreign Relations Law, which is edited by Prof. Bradley.  The first half of the course will compare and contrast how various constitutional democracies address common legal issues relating to foreign affairs.  The second half will focus on how these issues are addressed within the system of external relations of the European Union and its Member States.  Contemporary examples, such as the UK Supreme Court’s decision concerning “Brexit,” will be emphasized.