This paper examines the idea of a common European legal culture by exploring its foundational component, ‘collective legal consciousness’, in three EU states: the UK, Poland and Bulgaria. Using a comparative research design and a variety of methods of data collection, it suggests that, underneath the thin layer of EU consensus, there are some fundamental differences in perceptions of law. The evidence shows that legal ideas are infused with perceptions of the political system. This finding suggests that the creation of a shared European legal culture depends on the prior formation of a common transnational polity right across the EU, together with a sense of political identity and of trust in the legitimacy of the European political authorities. The paper also demonstrates the multilayered character of collective legal consciousness, allowing different images of law to co-exist, underpinned by the perception of the source with which each image is associated.