Debating Parliamentary Sovereignty

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On Tuesday Tory MP John Redwood gave an excellent speech during a rare EU debate in the House of Commons. He asserted the importance of the principle no past Parliament can bind its successor – “a fundamental part of British peoples liberties”. He asks a crucial question – How can Britain claim to be a proper democracy if on major issues like welfare, borders, migration and energy, Parliament is forbidden from making changes to the law which we – the electorate – want and need, but would be illegal under EU law?

After all, EU law is supreme over British law. Any British laws which contradict EU law are to be ignored by our courts. This was established by the European Court of Justice in a 1964 case, COSTA vs Enel.

John Redwood explains the effect of this:

“Our membership of the European Economic Community, now the Union, has increasingly damaged, undermined and overwhelmed that essential precept, which was the guarantee of our liberties as the British people. Now there are huge areas of work that are under European law and European control. Those parties that go out from this House into the general election and, for example, offer a better deal on energy, may well come back and discover that what they have offered is quite impossible under the strict and far-reaching rules on energy that now come from the European Union.”

Yet there is no denying EU law is illegitimate if it is against the wishes of general public.

Redwood recalls David Cameron’s words:

“The Bloomberg speech wisely said that the fount of political authority in any European member state, but certainly in the United Kingdom, rests from the national electorate through the national Parliament. That is still right.”

Our national Parliament should reflect the will of the Great British Public. The fact it is being thwarted in fulfilling its function to pass laws in the interests of the British public, is nothing short of an assault on our democracy. It leaves our Parliament impotent, unable to innovate in key areas like border controls and energy policies.

Redwood explains:

“Those parties that go out from this House into the general election and, for example, offer a better deal on energy, may well come back and discover that what they have offered is quite impossible under the strict and far-reaching rules on energy that now come from the European Union… [the strategic framework for energy policy] will spawn an enormous amount of detailed regulation and legislation, making energy a European competence almost completely.”

Even our welfare system is beyond the reach of Parliament:

“It is quite obvious, again, looking at the European Union’s work programme, that it will intensify its activity in this area and make it even more difficult for a national Parliament to express the wish that it wants in its laws on welfare.”

On borders:

“The same is true of border controls, where we are signed up to the free movement of peoples. That is now being ever more generously interpreted as giving the EU carte blanche and substantial control over border and migration policy throughout the EU.”

The House of Commons debated the merits of a red card/yellow card system as a way to veto EU law which is contrary to our national interest, but as John Redwood explains, this is not enough:

“Even having a red card, where national Parliaments collectively can block a new proposal, does nothing to tackle the problem that we have this vast panoply of law already agreed, sometimes many years ago, which may prevent a national Parliament from reflecting the will of its people.”

The clearest example of the EU’s contempt for democracy emerged out of the Greek crisis, which Redwood explains:  

“We now see this gripping and gruelling conflict where the euro area and the EU is telling Greece, “Well, we’ve got news for you: these are the rules. We don’t mind that your electorate have just rejected it all. We don’t care that you’ve elected into government a party that completely disagrees with us. You have no power in this. You the Greek people, you the Greek Parliament and you the Greek Government have to accept these rules, because those are the club rules.”

Get Britain Out wholeheartedly agrees with John Redwood.

The question is: when will the issue of maintaining a robust democracy in Britain take centre-stage in the political debate? Possibly as long as we’re stick with the current political establishment, which remains wedded to the idea of Britain as a glorified local council of a federal European state.

The crisis in our democracy is being ignored because the only clear solution to Britain’s democratic problem is to be loose of our relationship with the EU – to do that we must Get Britain Out, even if the main political parties in Great Britain don’t want it.

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