How Does Membership Of The European Union Affect Parliamentary Sovereignty?


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Richard Marsden Profile
Richard Marsden answered
The issues surrounding sovereignty in the UK system are affected by Britain's membership of the European Union (EU). The laws of the EU are binding on all member states, and therefore, take precedence over British domestic law. Apart from a few exceptions, EU legislation automatically becomes law within the UK, irrespective of the opinion of the British Parliament. Although this is the case, parliament could agree to repeal previous legislation, withdraw from the EU to demonstrate that parliamentary sovereignty still exists. However, this is unlikely unless one of the mainstream political parties were to adopt a strong anti-EU policy.

The 1986 Single European Act and the Maastrict Treaty can be seen as reducing Britain's sovereignty since they have extended the range of policy areas on which the EU can legislate. This has caused many British Conservative members of the European Parliament to continually vote against many proposals, not because they necessarily disagree with them, but that they think they should be dealt with at a national level.
Christopher Adam Profile
All members of the European Union, including the United Kingdom, agreed to "pool" some of the powers and responsibilities of their national governments and parliaments when they joined the union. This "pooling" means that national governments have given up some of their sovereignty, especially over issues relating to foreign policy, economics and justice, and have passed this on to a supranational organization.

This has important implications for the British parliament. For example, if a British government were to ratify an EU treaty along with other member states, and this would then come into effect everywhere in the EU, it would be very difficult for MPs of the British parliament to then over-turn, or overthrow such a treaty. Even if Parliament were to successfully pass a motion against any EU treaty, the European Court could intervene and rule the motion as illegal. In such a situation, the UK would have two choices. It could either accept the court's ruling and withdraw the motion before parliament, or it could pass the motion, allow the British government to act upon it and then withdraw the UK from the European Union.

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