We still call our Heads of State “sovereign”. Their “sovereign” powers have long been stripped away by Parliaments keen to take over the power of commanding taxation, armies, public services and lawmaking. Governments still make laws, sign Treaties and undertake deeds in the name of Her Majesty. The Queen would not dream of interfering in how they use these powers.
Sometimes people write to me to say the Queen should intervene and demand back many of these “sovereign” powers that are now exercised by the EU. They sometimes say they are writing to the Queen to insist on her upholding her Coronation Oath. They think she has some magical power to enforce Magna Carta, as if this ancient law has primacy or more relevance than the modern Statute law including the European Communities Act which commands us. Sometimes they demand the Queen requires the repatriation of powers from the EU which they wish had stayed here at home.
A constitional monarch in an elected democracy has no such power. Parliament is the new sovereign, acting in the name of the people and dismissable by the people. Parliament gave away important powers by first enacting the European Communities Act 1972, and then by subsequent enlargement of the areas of competence of the EU by ratifying and enacting subsequent Treaty changes. The powers were no longer the monarch’s to give away, and the monarch played no active part in doing so.
Parliament consulted the people in a referendum in 1975 under the then Labour government about the transfer of sovereignty. Many now say fairly they were not around for such a vote. Some who were then voters say that if they had read and understood the Treaty of Rome at the time, instead of relying on reassurances offered by various politicians, they might have voted against. The fact remains that the UK did vote to stay in the EEC. At no election since our joining has a pull out party won. In the last decade the official Opposition, the Conservatives, opposed the major transfers of power at Nice, Amsterdam and Lisbon. They spoke against them and voted against them in the Commons. This made no favourable difference to General Election outcomes for the Conservatives. They finally did better in an election in 2010 without offering repeal of the Treaties they had rightly voted against in the preceeding Parliaments, though individual Conservative candidates and MPs did wish to repeal these measures.
Over the next few days I wish to explore more the damage done to our sovereignty, and the options we have for redeeming it.