jump to navigation

european union bill January 12, 2011

Posted by Bradley in : eu, Uncategorized , trackback

MPs were arguing (and arguing… they carried on for hours) about parliamentary sovereignty yesterday. Proponents of amendments to the European Union Bill to strengthen and emphasise parliamentary sovereignty (they lost) are most bothered by the EU itself (characterised by one speaker as having “tentacles”) and by judges who don’t seem to know their place (and who should see themselves as subject to removal by MPs if they don’t behave themselves). Here’s Bill Cash:

The threat comes not only from the common law radicalism of such judges but from the EU law itself, which claims constitutional supremacy over member states’ constitutions. We have also seen cases of terrorists appearing to get away with things and people not being deported when they should have been, as well as a whole range of other matters occurring under the European Human Rights Act, which, as I have said, is mirrored by the new charter of fundamental rights in the Lisbon treaty. We are witnessing a vast increase in the volume and impact of such legislation on the British people, and this is resulting in the anxieties I have described. Those anxieties could be allayed by my amendments, however, and it is time for us to turn the tide and make it clear exactly where we stand.

But Malcolm Rifkind made a pretty good point when he said:

The sovereignty of Parliament was not created by an Act of Parliament, and it has never depended on an Act of Parliament. How can its restatement in an Act of Parliament given any real added value to its legitimacy?

And others noted press reports suggesting the whole thing is a matter of shadow-boxing or smoke and mirrors. And, although Dennis MacShane tried to inject some truth about what the UK’s membership really involves:

I put it gently to hon. Members that they should be careful before getting what they wish-the disaggregation of the European Union, with every country rejecting European Court of Justice decisions that they do not like. France believed that it was sovereign when it refused to accept a pound, or a kilo, of British beef, at the time when the whole world thought that the beef was contaminated. We could not export it to Australia, and Canada would not accept it. The Commonwealth would not have it. Hong Kong, our Crown colony, would not have it. But the European Union had to accept British beef because the European Court of Justice accepted our scientific arguments that the beef was fit for sale in the common European market

the debate involved a lot of rhetorical flourishes and veered between competition to see who could quote more Latin to discussions of dead parrots. Not an inspiring read. And not a great legitimation of the concept of parliamentary sovereignty either.


1. Desmond O'Toole - February 1, 2011

Thanks, Caroline, for this short analysis of the EU bill’s pasage through the HoC. Ralf Grahn brought it to my attention and I’ve posted it to my FB page. I’d be interested in anything else you write in teh UK’s difficult relationship with teh EU.

Regards … Desmond.

Desmond O’Toole
PES activists Dublin