Book Launch: The Constitutional Theory of the Federation and the European Union

Event date
9 June 2021
Event time
17:30 - 19:00
Oxford week
TT 7
Zoom Webinar
Signe Rehling Larsen; Stephen Tierney; Martin Loughlin; Renáta Uitz; Nick Barber; Kate O’Regan

Notes & Changes

Register here. Please note that this event may be recorded, with the exception of any live audience questions.

Book Cover for The Constitutional Theory of the Federation and the European Union.

The Bonavero Institute of Human Rights, the Programme for the Foundations of Law and Constitutional Government, and the Public Law Discussion Group invite you to the launch of the book The Constitutional Theory of the Federation and the European Union (OUP 2021) by Signe Rehling Larsen.

‘The Constitutional Theory of the Federation and the European Union’ challenges the characterization of the European Union (EU) as a sui generis political association, by demonstrating that the EU is a federal union of states, or a ‘federation’. Larsen argues that the statist imaginary fails to capture what a ‘federation’ is, for it makes us see federal policies as either 'confederal' associations of sovereign states or sovereign federal states. However, the federation is not a 'super state' but a discrete political form with its own constitutional theory. It is characterized by a double political existence, a lack of internal hierarchy, and the internal absence, contestation, or repression of sovereignty. This book details the key aspects of federal constitutional theory and how this theory accounts for the EU's constitutional form as well as the crises it has faced in recent years.

Signe Rehling Larsen will be joined by discussants Stephen Tierney (University of Edinburgh), Martin Loughlin (London School of Economics), Renáta Uitz (Central European University) and Nick Barber (University of Oxford). The discussion will be chaired by Kate O’Regan (Director, Bonavero Institute of Human Rights).

An audio recording of this event is available to listen to on Soundcloud


Photo of Signe Larsen.

Signe Rehling Larsen holds a PhD in law from the LSE. Before her doctorate, Signe studied politics and philosophy at the New School for Social Research, Bard College Berlin, and the University of Copenhagen. Signe was a Max Weber Fellow in Law at the European University Institute before joining Magdalen College as a Fellow by Examination in 2020. Signe’s research is concerned with constitutional studies broadly conceived, including constitutional theory, comparative constitutional law, and constitutional history. She is currently working on two different research projects. First, under the heading of ‘varieties of constitutionalism in the European Union’, Signe is researching the different approaches to constitutionalism that characterise the EU Member States and what that means for their constitutional relationships to the project of European integration. Second, Signe is working on a public law theory of empire and the relationship between the decline of imperialism and the rise of constitutionalism.


Stephen Tierney is Professor of Constitutional Theory at Edinburgh Law School, and Director of the Edinburgh Centre for Constitutional Law.

Photo of Martin Loughlin.

Martin Loughlin is Professor of Public Law at the London School of Economics & Political Science. His publications include Local Government in the Modern State (1986), Public Law and Political Theory (1992), Legality and Locality (1996), Sword and Scales (2000), The Idea of Public Law (2003), Foundations of Public Law (2010), The British Constitution: A Very Short Introduction (2013) and Political Jurisprudence (2017).

Photo of Renata Uitz.

Renáta Uitz started teaching at the Central European University in 2001 and became a professor of law in 2009. She was appointed chair (director) of the Comparative Constitutional Law program in 2007 and served twice as head of the Department of Legal Studies (2012-15 and 2018-20). Her major research interests lie in transition to and from constitutional democracy, the protection of individual autonomy and religious liberty. Her current work focuses on constitutions at work and the rule of law in the wake of illiberal political practices and constitutional chicanery. She has taught courses, both at CEU and internationally, covering subjects in comparative constitutional law and human rights in practice. Her recent books include The Constitution of Freedom: An Introduction to Legal Constitutionalism (OUP, 2017), the co-edited volume Critical Essays on Human Rights Criticism (Eleven, 2020), and the forthcoming co-edited Routledge Handbook of Illiberalism. In AY 2020-21 she is on research leave, as a Distinguished Visiting Professor at University College, London.  

Photo of Nick Barber.

Nick Barber joined the Oxford Law Faculty in 1998 as a Fixed Term Fellow at Brasenose, moving to a tenured Fellowship at Trinity College in 2000. He holds an MA from Oxford and the BCL, and is a non-practicing barrister and member of Middle Temple. In 2013 he was appointed University Lecturer in Constitutional Law and in 2017 he was appointed Professor of Constitutional Law and Theory. In 2012 and 2013 he was a visiting Professor at Renmin University, China. He has lectured extensively on constitutional law and theory in many countries. He has published many papers in these areas, and his book - The Constitutional State – was published in 2011, and has been widely reviewed. His second book, The Principles of Constitutionalism, was published by Oxford University Press in summer 2018.  His most recent book, The United Kingdom Constitution: An Introduction will be published in the Clarendon Law Series in late 2021. He was founder editor of the United Kingdom Constitutional Law Blog, and he was a co-author, with Jeff King and Tom Hickman, of the blog post that sparked the litigation in Miller, a post which first advanced the arguments eventually adopted by the High Court and Supreme Court. Alongside Richard Ekins, he is co-director of The Programme for the Foundations of Law and Constitutional Government. He is currently Associate Dean (Research).


Photo of Kate O'Regan.

Kate O'Regan is the inaugural Director of the Bonavero Institute of Human Rights and a former judge of the South African Constitutional Court (1994 – 2009). In the mid-1980s she practiced as a lawyer in Johannesburg in a variety of fields, but especially labour law and land law, representing many of the emerging trade unions and their members, as well as communities threatened with eviction under apartheid land laws.  In 1990, she joined the Faculty of Law at UCT where she taught a range of courses including race, gender and the law, labour law, civil procedure and evidence. Since her fifteen-year term at the South African Constitutional Court ended in 2009,  she has amongst other things served as an ad hoc judge of the Supreme Court of Namibia (from 2010 - 2016), Chairperson of the Khayelitsha Commission of Inquiry into allegations of police inefficiency and a breakdown in trust between the police and the community of Khayelitsha (2012 – 2014), and as a member of the boards or advisory bodies of many NGOs working in the fields of democracy, the rule of law, human rights and equality.

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Human Rights Law