Is Parliament still sovereign?

 

              There are now so many sources of authority and law affecting our country that this fundamental question does need to be asked.  Much of our law is now defined or influenced by EU law. There are laws Parliament cannot pass and stay within the EU legal framework. Our justice system is limited or controlled by membership of the European Convention on Human Rights. The judges of the ECHR, like the judges of the ECJ, can now dictate some of the answers to Parliament. The EU runs our agriculture and fishing policies, has a major say in our environmental policies, runs our trade and competition policies, and how has some influence over almost every  policy area.

                 Nearer to home the “independent” Bank of England decides interest rates, settles the regulatory framework of the commercial banks, and is often the decisive influence on how much money and credit circulate. A host of other quangos from culture to the environment operate with some independence of government in their chosen areas of activity.

                 These large transfer of power away from a sovereign Parliament has led some to welcome a new era of diffused or spread power, whilst for many others it has led to frustration that elected MPs and Ministers can no longer do as they think the electorate wish. A government can look impotent if it cannot extradite who it likes, control its own borders, decide what interest rates should be or how banks should be controlled, or settle the price of energy and how it is to be produced.

                   The fact that quangos, the EU and the ECHR have these powers does not necessarily  mean that Parliament has lost its sovereignty. We will only be able to answer that when we know what happens next. If the British people get fed up with the results of so much power given away, Parliament could still take it back on their behalf. Parliament is still technically sovereign, because it can repeal or amend the 1972 European Communities Act, the fount of the EU’s power in the UK. It could by agreement or unilaterally renounce the EU Treaties. It could withdraw us from the European Convention on human rights, or negotiate a new approach to the Convention’s powers.

                           If many more years pass when people and Parliament do not do these things, we will reach a point where in practice Parliament has lost its sovereignty. Meanwhile, it would be foolish of Ministers and commentators to underestimate the latent power of Parliament. Ministers can take our armed services into battle, but need Parliament’s support to do so. They can propose a wide range of new laws, but need Parliament’s votes to agree them. Parliament and Ministers can make or break Governors of the Bank of England, Directors General of the BBC, Field Marshalls and Admirals. Parliament can create quangos, change them and abolish them. If the so called independent Bank of England ceases to please Ministers with the backing of Parliament  will instruct it or Parliament will reform it. Parliament still makes and can break governments.

                          We had thirteen years of a poodle Parliament. There were far too few votes against the patronage and spin of the established governemnt to make much impact. Today we have a Parliament with no party in the majority, where every voice and vote can count. Whilst many of us want more MPs to be strong on remodelling our relationship with the EU, this Parliament is prepared to say “No” to the executive, and to probe the overmighty in the world of quangos and the established official government.

                            Parliamentary  sovereignty is not yet dead. It has been asleep. The issues for all of us, is do you wish to stir it to a much more energetic purpose?

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72 Comments

  1. Peter van Leeuwen
    Posted November 23, 2012 at 6:32 am | Permalink

    For that “ideal” to happen, you may have to withdraw for the EU completely: Just a simple veto by our (common!) “supra-sovereign” European Parliament next year, and Samantha Cameron will have ironed all these shirts for this weekend in vain. The intergovernmental EU branch may not achieve a budget deal this weekend, but even if it does, it only has co-decision rights with the directly elected European Parliament. If you don’t want that, you’ll have to leave this club.

    • Denis Cooper
      Posted November 23, 2012 at 12:18 pm | Permalink

      Peter, the European Parliament is not “supra-sovereign” or even “sovereign”, it’s the creature of the sovereign EU member states through their treaties, and what those sovereign member states have created they can if necessary uncreate.

      • Peter van Leeuwen
        Posted November 23, 2012 at 8:24 pm | Permalink

        @Denis: and . . .?

        • Denis Cooper
          Posted November 24, 2012 at 12:06 pm | Permalink

          As you want an “and”, how about “and it would be better if the EU member states agreed to abolish the EU Parliament”?

    • Mike Stallard
      Posted November 23, 2012 at 2:15 pm | Permalink

      Do read Dan Hannan’s blog and see how truly democratic the EU parliament really is.

      • Peter van Leeuwen
        Posted November 23, 2012 at 8:27 pm | Permalink

        Since the Norway massacre I don’t folow his blog, not because of him personaaly, but because of the followers he attracts with his over the top way of blogging. I don’t subscribe to Geert Wilders either, same reason. I believe in nuances.

        • Edward
          Posted November 23, 2012 at 11:20 pm | Permalink

          I’ve listened to your numerous arguments about Europe with interest Peter, but your dreadful oblique slur on the very decent Mr Hannon is the most unfair comment Ive ever read on this site.

          • Peter van Leeuwen
            Posted November 24, 2012 at 10:00 am | Permalink

            @Edward: Call it unfair as you wish, I’m just telling you what I have actually done. I haven’t checked whether among his followers are still the extremist I don’t want to be seen with, miracles do happen occasionally. And yes, I strongly disagree with what I can only describe as “over the top” blogging, both in words and imagery. It does attract attention, but it also radicalises views just too much. That is as far as it goes, I’m not accusing anybody of crimes.

        • lifelogic
          Posted November 24, 2012 at 7:38 am | Permalink

          What on earth has one evil, mad person in Norway got to do with it?

          • Peter van Leeuwen
            Posted November 24, 2012 at 10:02 am | Permalink

            @Lifelogic: You may read the…. man’s manuscript as I have done or read the reaction I’ve given to Edward above. It remains my choice what I do or don’t read and I’m not intending to hide my reasons, whether or not you’d think them mistaken.

  2. lifelogic
    Posted November 23, 2012 at 6:33 am | Permalink

    “Parliamentary sovereignty is not yet dead” – not quite perhaps but it might as well be with the current attitude of all three main parties.

    The multilevel government and multilevel and conflicting laws and courts that currently pertains, from EU level down to regional and local authorities is hugely inefficient and slow. Ministers are endlessly told by government lawyers that cannot do anything due to the endless absurd EU directives. Even taking VAT off insulation products, getting functional banking, or restricting migration of people, having sensible light bulbs, or sensible insurance premiums related to risk is beyond Westminster’s control.

    It is reported that Life Assurance premiums for women set to increase by up to 20% in December due to European Directive on gender equality. No doubt even more for car insurance (or expensive technology having to be installed in cars instead perhaps) and annuities. We are clearly ruled by idiots and Cameron clearly approves of all this insanity.

    • Bazman
      Posted November 23, 2012 at 5:25 pm | Permalink

      Having sensible lightbulbs? You mean the ones you want to use. Not sensible as no lightbulb can be sensible unless it is the one you want to use. Science could never invent a florescent incandescent light bulb even if the spectrum, light output and price was exactly the same. It would not be sensible as it did not use the same amount of energy or looked different. Florescent bulbs have come a long way and new technology such as LED’s will overtake them. Sensible today given the price of electricity. Mercury? Did you ever have a concern about this with florescent tubes which have been used for decades?? No you never even thought about it and had you did, would have and still dismissed it out of hand. like banking regulation. Ram it.

  3. Mike Stallard
    Posted November 23, 2012 at 6:35 am | Permalink

    Just seventy years ago we were a Great Power with most of the world in our remit. From Australia through to Asia, Africa and Europe we were the major player . USA and Russia were just beginning to feel their muscle, but our Empire was still able to make deals with Stalin and Roosevelt as an equal.
    Yesterday we watched as our Prime Minister was called in for a “consultation” with the President of the EU, flanked by the leading Commissioner, just as if he were a schoolboy being called into the Head’s office for a “chat” or an MP being whipped in.
    That is how far Parliament has sunk: in thrall to a Portuguese, and a couple of Belgians.
    Nowadays, Switzerland and Norway, for heaven’s sake are much richer than we are.

    Last night I met two Basque immigrants. Basques! The power house of Spain!

    One final thing is a request to you. The deal over the EU tax on our country is being very badly reported as piecemeal payments (Rebate etc). Could you please tell me where I can find the gross amount we pay to the EU at the moment? After the current meeting, I would very much like to know how that gross figure has changed.

  4. Brian Taylor
    Posted November 23, 2012 at 6:55 am | Permalink

    When I voted to stay in the Common Market (1975), I did not read the small print on the label and times were different,thanks to Mrs Thatcher th UK found its self confidence.
    While I was busy working and bringing up a family the EU had grown bigger and so had our own government machine it seemed that within a generation we were paying for two governments, the UK and theEU!
    As we can only afford the pay for one government it’s decision time either we let the EU run thing and slim down the UK government or step back from the EU and get value for money from our own government!

  5. Mr. Frost
    Posted November 23, 2012 at 7:13 am | Permalink

    I want Parliament to reassert its authority over the Goverment, but this must not just be Commons. We need the Lords restored to stronger patronage and the Monarchy given back its duty to protect the Constitution should the HoC and HoL fail in its duty to do so.

  6. colliemum
    Posted November 23, 2012 at 7:19 am | Permalink

    Wouldn’t it be great if Parliament did indeed bestir itself and took back the powers it has led slide.
    For that to happen though it would be necessary to elect MPs who are not depending on their Party leaders’ patronage, and who would need a grasp of history.
    It becomes more and more obvious that we’re living in a sort of neo-feudal society, where the ‘leaders’ in the EU and the EU member countries have more in common with each other than with the people they say they represent. These leaders are comparable to the feudal lords in the Middle Ages, with the bureaucrats comparable to the clerics of the Roman Catholic Church.
    What is needed is not so much a new British Bill of Rights, but our MPs recalling why the Magna Charta was created, and to act accordingly.

    • Martin Ryder
      Posted November 23, 2012 at 5:25 pm | Permalink

      Not only this, there is a new aristocracy developing that works to different rules and rewards from the common people. They are not politicians but senior public ‘servants’, such as the people now receiving insane amounts of money for failing the BBC and those who pay for it – the common people. Others, such as the person who ran the failing Border Agency, walk from one highly paid (by the common people) job to another as if they were born to the purple. It is these people, who scorn those elected by the people as well as the people themselves, who are so keen on the EU, AGW, immigration, etc because they believe that they belong to an international elite and not to any national society.

      Bye the way, all this talk of ‘the common people’ does not make me a socialist. I have voted conservative for the last 40 years, even though I often ask myself why. I do not have problems with society having different strata based on wealth, ability, etc but I do object to people rising to the top of society who are plainly incompetent and who are taking their income out of my pockets.

  7. Boudicca
    Posted November 23, 2012 at 7:44 am | Permalink

    Sovereignty resides with the people. The huge transfers of Sovereign power to the EU and the ECHR were carried out without the consent of the people. We had no say in the matter because the deeds were only achieved by denying the British people a Referendum and the only Political parties then on offer deliberately operated a consensus in order to deny choice.

    The British Establishment, together with the Globalists of the Bilderberg Committee, had determined that the UK would be absorbed within the EU and the people were not going to be allowed to prevent it.

    Is Parliament Sovereign? No. Parliament does as it is instructed by shadowy people who do not concern themselves with the interests of the British people.

    We will not be ALLOWED to secede from the EU. When a Referendum is finally permitted, the pro-EU propaganda will be relentless in order to achieve the desired result.

    If we are not ALLOWED to secede, we are no longer Sovereign. Our Political Elite gave away our Sovereignty – we fought off external aggressors, but the traitors who succeeded were within.

    • Timaction
      Posted November 23, 2012 at 12:00 pm | Permalink

      Our Government and Parliament have been an impotent imposter doing the bidding of its EU masters for 40 years. This has been hidden from the people(plebs) as each act of incremental Treaty treachery spun as tidying up exercises or improving trade. Never has there been such treason by all three main leading parties in cahoots with each other pretending to fight over policy morsals whilst huge swathes of sovereignty have been given away. For what? They spin it as ” the single market”, 3 million jobs at risk”, a “bigger voice in the world”, “stopping wars”. All nonsense. We pay £10 billion net for a £50 billion trade deficit. China, Japan, Norway, Switzerland etc don’t have to be in it, to trade with it. The whole project is about politicians and their personal vanity and self interest. If it wasn’t they would have actively publicised the benefits for the last 40 years. The secret FCO briefing paper 30/1048 of 1971 spells it out nicely. The fact is the mainstream parties CANNOT be trusted on the EU any more. We need to be out as soon as possible and leave them and our self serving politicos to it. If it means voting UKIP to destroy their treachery so be it. My forefathers gave their lives to stop invasion by foreign nations not to have our sovereignty given away by lying politicians.

      • uanime5
        Posted November 23, 2012 at 10:25 pm | Permalink

        China, Japan, Norway, and Switzerland all had to agree trade agreements with the EU in order to trade with it. Also Norway and Switzerland have to obey all EU law.

        • Timaction
          Posted November 24, 2012 at 3:05 pm | Permalink

          Unamime. So what? We do that with the majority (over half of all our trade and rising) of our trade elsewhere in the world. We don’t have to give them our fishing rights either, we have closed borders with them, we don’t have to pay over the top to subsidise French and other foreign farmers through the CAP, we don’t have to pay £9 billion annually in business costs implementing its debilitating laws and directives. We could have the 3 million starter jobs back for our own people particularly the 1000,000 young unemployed. The disadvantages of being in the leftist socialist EU are well documented. Its purely a political dream to have a superstate by stealth AGAINST the wishes of the English people.

    • uanime5
      Posted November 23, 2012 at 10:24 pm | Permalink

      Given that people kept electing Governments that wished to be in the EU and be bound by the ECHR it seems that the people did decide what they wanted.

      • Edward
        Posted November 25, 2012 at 7:54 pm | Permalink

        uni,
        Given that recent European polls show a majority are not happy with the way the EU is providing falling standards of living and growing unemployment and other polls in the UK show a growing majority for leaving the EU you may need to rethink.

    • Lindsay McDougall
      Posted November 24, 2012 at 1:08 pm | Permalink

      You do not need referendums to repeal the Single European Act, or any of the Acts of Accession to the Maastricht, Amsterdam, Nice and Lisbon Treaties. Why not? Because there were no referendums authorising those Acts. My own opinion is that the Single European Act was on balance useful to the UK and that we should retain it. However, the Conservative Party can include repeal of the Acts of Accession to Maastricht, Amsterdam, Nice and Lisbon in its next General Election manifesto and, on day one after taking office, just DO IT.

      We are a parliamentary democracy and referendums are discretionary. Morally, if not constitutionally, we would need a referendum to repeal our original Act of Accession to the Treaty of Rome, the CAP and the CFP. Why? Because these were endorsed by the 1975 referendum.

      As long as we are fair to our own electorate, we can wave two fingers at everybody else.

  8. alan jutson
    Posted November 23, 2012 at 7:45 am | Permalink

    “Parliamentary sovereignty is not yet dead. It has been asleep”

    Good grief, so we have sleepwalked to near disaster, whilst all employed/elected have done nothing to correct it, but have been paid in full.

    Perhaps one of the problems John, is that we have no right of recall of Mps who are either usless, or who are simply in it for themselves.
    We have what is in effect an elected dictatorship for five years at a time.

    With regard to the powers of the EU.

    I seem to remember Mr Osbourne in one of his Budget speeches saying he would have liked to have introduced/reduced/changed a particular level of tax, but he could not do that because of EU rules.
    If ever there was an admission of who was in charge, that summed it up perfectly.

    Yes Parliament perhaps is sovereign if it wants to be, but too few of our Mps seem to want to bite the bullet, most it would seem, prefer the comfort blanket of being able to blame someone else should the need arise.

  9. RB
    Posted November 23, 2012 at 7:59 am | Permalink

    All that is required is that MPs do their jobs.

    1) Represent their constituents
    2) Hold the executive to account

    If they did this, sovereignty would be restored because this is the exercise of sovereignty, which rests with the people. The many ways in which sovereignty has been dispersed or “outsourced” is only possible because of this failure.

  10. Brian Tomkinson
    Posted November 23, 2012 at 8:15 am | Permalink

    For too long too many MPs have actively or passively colluded to give away powers vested in Parliament particularly to the EU. Whilst remaining technically sovereign, in practice Parliament has become increasingly impotent. I have long regarded this transfer of sovereignty, without a practical reference back for approval from the electorate on whose behalf those powers are exercised, as totally unacceptable. For too long it has been accepted, and in some cases welcomed, that this process should continue until Parliament in practice has lost its sovereignty. It is not before time that MPs should reassert their power in Parliament on behalf of the people of the UK. Parliament is meant to hold the executive to account but too many times has failed. This must end and MPs should put country before party when exercising that power on behalf of their constituents.

  11. Old Albion
    Posted November 23, 2012 at 8:34 am | Permalink

    Unless we leave the EU, parliament will remain nothing more than an impotenet talking shop.

  12. Mike
    Posted November 23, 2012 at 8:35 am | Permalink

    As a rule MPs of all parties vote with their cheque book rather than their principles. Obeying the whips is the way to gain advancement hence even on the most important of votes ( last years vote on an EU referendum being an excellent example) very few stand their ground.

    Many of those who do have no hope for advancement which reduces even further the number who vote on principle.

    ‘Professional’ MPs are the problem, rather than the system.

    • lifelogic
      Posted November 24, 2012 at 2:35 pm | Permalink

      Career MPs, the party structures, the EU and the voting systems are all part of the problem. There is no meaningful democracy in the UK it just a superficial veneer to fake legitimacy.

  13. Iain Moore
    Posted November 23, 2012 at 9:19 am | Permalink

    Yes.

    Not only has Parliament handed away sovereignty that they had no right to, resulting in it being impotent to act in the interests of the country, which might the cause for the public holding in such contempt and disgust, but it has by handing away sovereignty disenfranchised the electorate , for we can vote for a figure head Government but it can’t do anything. We got enfranchised by the group, working men, older women, young women, and had a democracy that lasted 45 years, then got disenfranchised by the policy, starting with fishing and agriculture and then in piratically every aspect of our lives where we now can’t decide who comes here to live.

    • APL
      Posted November 23, 2012 at 10:40 pm | Permalink

      Iain Moore: ” then got disenfranchised by the policy, ”

      The political elite, acting in their own interests.

  14. NickW
    Posted November 23, 2012 at 9:34 am | Permalink

    Yes.

    If the BBC can afford £450,000 for its new boss, AND pay on top of that a pension derived from previous employment at the BBC, then the BBC clearly has too much money, and the licence fee needs to be drastically reduced.

    The “Pension” of £84000 which is to be added to this person’s enormous salary would count for most people as a salary beyond their dreams.

    The rate of increase in the population, the increase in the number of households, and the number of licence payers has far exceeded the cost increase the BBC bears every time it gets a new licence payer, which is nil.

    The first test of the new Director General is whether or not he does anything about the obscene salaries the BBC pays; starting with his own.

    And the test for Parliament is what it does to address the rot and corruption at the BBC; the smell that this organisation is casting over the UK body politic is overpowering.

    • NickW
      Posted November 23, 2012 at 11:07 am | Permalink

      As the banks and Big Business have discovered, paying huge salaries is counterproductive.

      Those who receive them come to believe that they are omnipotent, infallible, superhuman, and always right, because otherwise, they would not be paid so much, would they?

      We could all offer our own examples of executives who turned out to be completely mistaken in their opinions of their own abilities, and whose elevation to high office destroyed their organisation.

      • forthurst
        Posted November 23, 2012 at 5:58 pm | Permalink

        “We could all offer our own examples of executives who turned out to be completely mistaken in their opinions of their own abilities, and whose elevation to high office destroyed their organisation.”

        I’m surprised you got such an allusion to John Major’s competence past moderation.

      • uanime5
        Posted November 23, 2012 at 10:30 pm | Permalink

        Perhaps the Government should introduce laws to constrain these salaries in private companies to ensure that these companies are run efficiently.

    • lifelogic
      Posted November 23, 2012 at 9:21 pm | Permalink

      Indeed there is no reason whatsoever that any of the second rate lefty arts graduates at the BBC deserve any more than £100K PA for the lefty drivel and dumbed down rubbish they mainly churn out.

  15. Posted November 23, 2012 at 9:34 am | Permalink

    Parliament is still technically sovereign, because it can repeal or amend the 1972 European Communities Act, the fount of the EU’s power in the UK.

    Yes it needs to do this; then return of all the ‘rights’ removed (habeas corpus etc) stopping the imposition of Corpus Juris. Then those that make up Parliament would need reconnecting with the people they is meant to be representing.

    • uanime5
      Posted November 23, 2012 at 10:34 pm | Permalink

      It was the UK Government, not the EU, who removed habeas corpus from anyone accused of terrorism. Fortunately the ECHR rule it was illegal to hold people without charge and forced the Government to restore habeas corpus.

  16. oldtimer
    Posted November 23, 2012 at 9:40 am | Permalink

    An interesting and thought provoking post. For the moment Parliament does have the ability to exercise sovereign powers, but there is a real question whether it, or its members, have the will to do so. We live in a country seemingly bound hand, foot and finger at every turn, incapable of reforming itself. The system under which we live is all too vulnerable to the machinations of single issue pressure groups, often quite small minorities, operating against the wishes or inclinations of the silent majority. The only defence against this pressure is the common sense of independently minded MPs who have not been captured by such groups.

    I welcome the fact that there is now some real opposition to certain long standing policies and positions, that the “elective dictatorship” of the executive can now be curbed in certain respects. This country needs new thinking to extricate itself from its present dire situation. The only prospect of doing so is if enough MPs have the gumption to push for the needed changes.

  17. Alan Wheatley
    Posted November 23, 2012 at 9:43 am | Permalink

    This fundamental question does, indeed, need to be asked. This post is an excellent introduction to the question and stimulus to thinking about what the answer should be.

    The more I think about the answer the bigger the issue becomes. For to answer the question of parliamentary sovereignty you need to first answer other, more fundamental questions about the nation state and the self determination of peoples.

    For most of my lifetime being British was not a big issue – it is something I am and was happy to be. I am also English, and born in Kent, but these are refinements of being British rather than a challenge to Britishness. I leave aside the anomaly that my country is the United Kingdom as I do not want to be known as a “United Kingdomer”.

    In recent times what it is to be British is much less clear. We have seen an increasing number of Scots who do not want to be British, with similar voices raised in Northern Ireland and Wales, and even in places such as Cornwall. On the other hand the Falkland Islanders definitely want to be British.

    In different but related vein there is increasing reference in everyday speech to the “Xland” community [readers to insert the country or countries of their choice] living in some part of the UK. In conventional English usage this would be a reference to ex-pats living in the UK, but what is (always?) meant is not foreigners but people of British nationality of foreign origin. Now there is nothing wrong with this (other than the confusing use of English) as all Britons are “of foreign origin”, but it does raise the question as to why certain groups of British people should be primarily identified by their country of origin, different to their current nationality, and whether this a good thing for them and the rest of us.

    While it is inherently good that no one should be denied their heritage and have to suppress their origins, when it comes to the sovereignty of Parliament at heart is a two-way relationship: Parliament has to know of and care about all the peoples over whom it exercises sovereignty, and the peoples have to agree to that sovereignty being exercised over them.

    A “thousand years of history” is a comforting thought, but where is it going, and is the end in sight?

  18. theyenguy
    Posted November 23, 2012 at 10:47 am | Permalink

    The UK lost its sovereignty when the Maastricht Treaty entered into force, on November 1, 1993. And the UK leaders by submitting to the announcement and participation in the European Stabilization Mechanism of May 2010, made the UK citizens liable for the debts of Greece, and thus had confirmation of the loss of their sovereignty; this as Bruno Waterfield and Melissa Kite in The Telegraph May 8, 2010 article British Taxpayers Ordered To Bail Out Euro. All 27 EU finance ministers have been summoned to Brussels on Sunday to sign up to a European stabilisation mechanism. Britain will be unable to veto this as it will be put through under the “qualified majority voting” system.

    Furthermore, by participating with in the November 2010, International Monetary Fund and Europe seigniorage aid program for Ireland, to prevent a European and worldwide financial meltdown, the United Kingdom is now fully integrated into a region of economic governance with the European Union. The UK Leaders have waived national citizenship, and those living in the UK are residents of a region European economic governance. The creators of the euro knew that perfectly well what they were doing. They will fulfilling the 1974 call of the Club of Rome to establish one of ten regions of economic governance. In article Ten regions of global governance are emerging, I relate that three regions have already formed: the European Zone, the North American Continent and the ASEAN Trading Group. And Asean Secretariat News reports that Dr. Surin Pitsuwan relates China is now the leading trading partner of ASEAN. China has been ASEAN’s largest trading partner since 2009 attributable mainly to the 17.1% annual average growth in ASEAN-China bilateral trade within the first six years of the ACFTA’s implementation.

    Through forfeiture of national sovereignty, the UK parliament has subjected those in the UK to a region of global governance, that is a region of economic governance.

    I believe that the United Kingdom, LYG, having its own banks, LYG, RBS, BCS, HBC, the City of London Financial District, and its own currency, the British Pound Sterling, FXB, will exercise Parliamentary rule, repatriate national sovereignty, and depart a Brussels and Berlin centric Europe.

    Reply Maastricht, with the UK opt out from the Euro, was a less serious transfer of power than the original Treaty of Rome, or Lisbon.

  19. Lindsay McDougall
    Posted November 23, 2012 at 11:00 am | Permalink

    You are right. Our parliament can reverse just about every loss of sovereignty to which it has acquiesed. There is one exception. If we ever give a European Army de jure status within our realm, we are in deep trouble. That’s why I keep emphasising that we should listen to what the German Chancellor is advocating.

  20. Neil Craig
    Posted November 23, 2012 at 11:13 am | Permalink

    Personally I would prefer the people to be sovereign & the concept of “Parliamentary sovereignty” since Parliament’s sole claim to sovereignty is that it represents the people, to be an abuse of power whenever it does something we obviously dislike – like not having a choice over Europe or funding a state broadcasting propaganda Ministry of Truth.

    Probably ahead even of people’s sovereignty should be the soverignty of a writen constitution limiting the power of Parliament or even a majority of the people to dictate to us. Theoretically Parliament’s power is unlimited – even, as a famous example, to the extent of redefining a man as a woman or marriage as a union of 2 women. This seems dictatorial and previous Parliaments were careful not to use the power so capriciously which is probably why they were allowed to keep it.

  21. JoolsB
    Posted November 23, 2012 at 11:35 am | Permalink

    You’ve missed one out John. What about 119 MPs sitting in the UK Parliament at Westminster who have 100% say in matters which will only affect those who have never voted for them whilst having almost no say on matters which affect those who did vote for them. Their vote can often make the difference such as the introduction of tuition fees and foundation hospitals and yet they can never be held to account for those decisions.

    Even if we were to leave the EU tomorrow, the UK Parliament could never be sovereign over those to whom their laws apply until 119 Celtic MPs lose the right to vote on matters which don’t affect their constituents and England is given a voice and self determination, i.e. it’s own parliament in the same way the other nations of this Un-united Kingdom enjoy.

    The Tories won a 62 seat majority in England in 2010 and yet the Conservative party have wasted it by choosing to ignore both the English Question and the skewed Barnett Formula. The best they are willing to do is create a commission to look at the West Lothian Question which doesn’t even mention England by name and which Clegg has been allowed to kick into the longest grass ever until after 2015 when it will be too late because if Labour get into power they are hellbent on breaking England up into regions.

    We can never call ourselves a democracy again thanks to first Labour and now the Tories’ continual contempt for England.

    • The PrangWizard
      Posted November 23, 2012 at 5:28 pm | Permalink

      The people of England must be granted their own sovereign parliament. It is urgent and undeniable, the fact that it is denied is a constitutional outrage and an assault on a basic freedom.

      We the English are being refused the right of self-determination by the British Establishment and the Left.

      I would hope that some of the more courageous and active members of parliament, as part of the call-to-arms by Mr Redwood above (albeit British MPs) would detach themselves a little from their British and Unionist allegiances and declare for an English parliament.

      I wish they could be as outraged and activated by this injustice as they are about the injustice of the EU. It is perfectly possible to support both causes.

      Where are the freedom fighters? At present they seem to be confined to the small groups like the Campaign for an English Parliament and the English Democrats Party.

  22. Posted November 23, 2012 at 11:50 am | Permalink

    Mr Redwood, this is a stirring post that I hope other MPs will read.

    I think that the House of Commons is good at reflecting public opinion.

    However, public opinion in coached by the media, dominated as it has been by the BBC. We are populated by busy people who do not have time to study every speech. Rightly or wrongly we rely on our media for political information and we cannot be blamed if that information is angled in a certain way.

    This is why, in my opinion, the Commons has been so tame in the recent past about losing powers to the eu and other quangos.

    The Greek situation is – at last – giving the left wing second thoughts and – at last – the BBC is starting to reflect our doubts about Europe.

    Thus, the Commons is reacting. I just hope it is not too late.

  23. Denis Cooper
    Posted November 23, 2012 at 12:00 pm | Permalink

    Just to repeat my comment on the previous thread:

    Yes, Parliament is still sovereign, the supreme legal authority for the United Kingdom, even though too many of its members in both Houses prefer that it doesn’t exercise its continuing legal sovereignty and a fair number of them would prefer to see it reduced to a non-sovereign body subordinated within a pan-European federation.

    However it has to be understood that while legally the UK Parliament is still sovereign and can make or unmake any law, it is not omnipotent and therefore it may not be in a position to enforce certain laws which it could in theory pass, for example hypothetical laws to reverse the previous laws granting independence to former colonies.

  24. Barbara
    Posted November 23, 2012 at 12:14 pm | Permalink

    We need to do something before QMV (qualified majority voting) decides everything (2014, I think, is the date), for then we will face the possibility of being outvoted in the EU on every issue. In that case, we will definitely have lost our sovereignty.
    I also favour repealing the 1972 Act. In fact, with Mark Reckless reporting on the Daily Politics yesterday that the ‘out’ numbers are out-running the ‘in’ at 2:1, I don’t know why we don’t get on with it.

    • uanime5
      Posted November 23, 2012 at 10:43 pm | Permalink

      In 1974 polls showed 50% of the population wanted to leave the EC and 30% wanted to remain in it. In the 1975 referendum 62% of the population voted to remain in the EC, which shows just how inaccurate those polls are.

  25. Peter Geany
    Posted November 23, 2012 at 1:20 pm | Permalink

    Parliament is sovereign as far as it goes. What is different today is that our Westminster Parliament with no mandate from the people has given away its power to the EU by treaty. So under international law we must obey all that comes our way.

    There is only one way of renegotiating our relationship with Europe and that is to invoke Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty which states that it is our intention to leave the EU. This is built into the treaty and is not something that Brussels can ignore. We would also nationalise all un-adopted EU Law and join the EEC and other trade organisations at the same time.

    Having done this nothing would have changed with regards our trade with the EU but we would then be in charge of our own destiny. Unwinding all the EU Law we don’t want is then in our hands and not part of some fictitious negotiations in Europe. It has taken 40 years to get to where we are and the world has moved on. Getting back to where we want to be may take another 20.

    Any Eurosceptic that thinks there is a magic wand way out of the EU is either Eurostupid or a Europhile that has decided their best bet to maintaining the status quo is to encourage other genuine Eurosceptic’s to support an unobtainable aim that won’t gain mainstream support, sabotage from within.

    My only caveat is we need to change our own politics. Do we really want to rest control back from an unelected bunch of morons in Brussels only to hand to anther bunch of out of control morons in Westminster? We need to make them accountable first.

    • Denis Cooper
      Posted November 23, 2012 at 6:00 pm | Permalink

      “There is only one way of renegotiating our relationship with Europe and that is to invoke Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty which states that it is our intention to leave the EU.”

      That’s apart from invoking Article 48 on revision of the treaties, which starts on page 41 here:

      http://eur-lex.europa.eu/LexUriServ/LexUriServ.do?uri=OJ:C:2010:083:0013:0046:EN:PDF

      Regarding the most recent of the three EU treaty amendments that have been agreed under Article 48 since the Treaty of Lisbon came into force on December 1st 2009, here’s a report from September 29th 2011:

      http://www.ablv.com/en/press/2011-09-29-ireland-asks-eu-to-amend-treaties

      “Ireland asks EU to amend treaties”

      “The Irish government has asked the European Union to amend its treaties in order to provide specific legal assurances that the country can continue to control its own corporate tax rate.”

      “In a letter to the EU presidency on September 2, seen by the Financial Times, the Irish ambassador to the EU requested that a protocol be attached to Europe’s upcoming Croatian accession treaty, ensuring that Ireland’s jurisdiction over taxation would not be compromised.”

      The full story is in the November 1st 2012 House of Commons Library Research Paper which can be accessed through this link:

      https://docs.google.com/viewer?a=v&q=cache:b1qNN27LVxcJ:www.parliament.uk/briefing-papers/RP12-64.pdf+RESEARCH+PAPER+12/64&hl=en&gl=uk&pid=bl&srcid=ADGEESiFTwqmajSgTmLJl6EBArOCOP2zQqYGrAo3iYwwPtAj4BUy_ZIGAGUpgyTXn-hDvaTYND9Nvg8ZQiKlQeoHStYz6wjrQPCrcUi290NCZDIQzo43pPsDMwsJuCRScQoNNiEpGcTy&sig=AHIEtbR0WD6SxWB9zAXq5lJwNAjuzEQZBw

      “European Union (Croatian Accession and Irish Protocol) Bill”

      Mostly that Paper is about the Croatian accession part of the Bill, with the sections on the Irish Protocol not starting until page 42.

      The protocol itself, here:

      http://www.consilium.europa.eu/igcpdf/en/12/cg00/cg00001.en12.pdf

      was agreed on May 14th 2012 under Article 48(3) TEU and now awaits final ratification by all EU member states, in our case after approval through that Bill which is presently with the Commons.

      OK, this is a special case in the sense that the Irish were promised a protocol of that kind as an inducement to vote “yes” in their second referendum on Lisbon Treaty, but in principle there is no reason where there should never be an analogous report saying:

      “UK asks EU to amend treaties”

      “The British government has asked the European Union to amend its treaties in order to repatriate control over UK fishing grounds”

      “In a letter to the EU presidency, the British ambassador to the EU requested that a protocol be attached to the EU treaties giving the UK a treaty opt-out from the Common Fisheries Policy.”

      If a number of such letters were sent about different policy areas and they were just put in the bin, then with each rejection the case for invoking Article 50 would be strengthened.

      Reply: When the EU decides to change it can also change the Treaties/laws. It has also been known for the Eu to proceed in ways that seem outwith the Treaty when it suits them. A renegotiation could bring about Treaty change.

      • Denis Cooper
        Posted November 24, 2012 at 11:58 am | Permalink

        Missed for moderation, JR, so permitting perpetuation of the current myth that Article 50 TEU on voluntary withdrawal from the EU is the only legal route available to change our treaty relations with the other EU countries; which is rather unfortunate for those in the Tory party who are drawing up lists of powers to be repatriated while remaining in the EU.

        • Lindsay McDougall
          Posted November 27, 2012 at 2:30 am | Permalink

          But those who draw up lists of powers to be repatriated regardless of whether or not the EU expels us, and who want those lists to be written into the next Conservative Party manifesto as our ‘bottom line’, are in a strong position. It is perfectly practical to repeal the Acts of Accession to Maastricht, Amsterdam, Nice and Lisbon on day one of taking office. British law regarding Europe would revert to the way it was on 1st January 1987. European courts would be superior to British courts only in so far as authorised by the 1973 and 1987 acts.

          Every practical Europe related measure implemented since 1st January 1993, when Maastricht entered our law, would become de facto rather than de jure, so that our parliament could unpick any of them.

          So, too, would the existence of the Euro, giving us the right to campaign for other Member States to leave it.

          The beauty of it is that nobody could claim this was impractical, since it would in British law be a return to the status quo ante that existed between 1st January 1987 and 31st December 1992.

      • peter geany
        Posted November 25, 2012 at 10:53 am | Permalink

        I think you play around the edges with Article 48 getting nowhere. I quote from Richard North who knows more than almost anyone else in the UK about the EU

        “The belief that we can repatriate powers we have given away to the EU is a sure sign that whoever voices it hasn’t really got a clue as to what the EU is about. The most sacred rule of the “European project”, ever since it was launched in 1950, is that once a nation state has handed powers of governance to the centre they can never be given back.”

    • uanime5
      Posted November 23, 2012 at 10:45 pm | Permalink

      To be part of the EEC you have to obey all EU law. In Norway they refer to it as joining the EU by the back door.

      • Denis Cooper
        Posted November 24, 2012 at 12:03 pm | Permalink

        You mean the EEA; it is not true that EEA membership requires Norway to comply with all EU law; instead pro-EU Norwegian politicians, frustrated with the continuing popular opposition to EU membership, have chosen to adopt EU laws unnecessarily.

  26. David John Wilson
    Posted November 23, 2012 at 2:39 pm | Permalink

    A lot of the laws passed in the EU are perfectly acceptable, It is about time our parliament stopped trying justifying its existence by making unnecessary changes that are often different but no more acceptable or unacceptable. Our parliament needs to concentrate on those issues that really matter and change that is really justified.

    Similarly with quangos that parliament has set up. Responsibilities have been delegated to them let them get on with what they are set up to do. Yes there are major decisions in which parliament needs to get involved but these are much fewer than currently seem to warrant interference. Again changes made by parliament are fequently little better or worse than the original proposals. Too often changes are made for the sake of parliament justifying its existence.

    Either stop interfering or get rid of the quango.

  27. The PrangWizard
    Posted November 23, 2012 at 2:39 pm | Permalink

    My answer is ‘YES’. “Keep on Keeepin’ on”.

  28. pete
    Posted November 23, 2012 at 2:43 pm | Permalink

    We have sleepwalked into letting our politicos give away bit by bit areas that our own institutions could run perfectly well – it seems the (tidying up exercise) Lisbon Treaty has been the one to wake many up.

    It seems true that the whole thing can be repealed but there seems to be so many people in politics and the media that still think signing everything away is a good thing so the govt are probably scared of doing anything meaningful about it.

    Until someone comes up with a full and balanced impact analysis with no hidden BBC type agenda explaining the true pros and cons of the EU these arguments are going to continue.

    We hear journalists talk about our membership costing only £26 PA for every household to have access to a huge market, they forget about the huge cost in red tape, expensive employment laws and the loss of industries like fishing – so until the whole real cost can be presented without bias we all going to go round and round this argument.

    My feelings are the govt isn’t in full control like it would probably like to be but they are scared of the alternatives (leaving the EU) but won’t tell us why – it all sounds a bit like someone being in an abusive marriage but are scared to leave.

  29. Conrad Jones (Cheam)
    Posted November 23, 2012 at 5:38 pm | Permalink

    The Government has been shirking it’s responsibility of issuing the Nation’s Currency Supply, and allowing so called “Experts” in Economics and Banking to steer Economic Policy.

    We have all be led into a New Communist State where Central Control is King.

    The Bank of England sets an interest rate at which it lends to financial institutions.
    Basel Accords set Capital Requirements – which are due to increase over the next few years.

    The Horse has already bolted, so they are slamming the Door Shut.

    George Osborne says that Too Big to Fail Banks are good for the Economy, all we need is a little “Ring Fencing”. Asset Speculation and Deregulation have combined to create an ever increasing unstable Financial System which will eventually lead to more Tax Payer bailouts so as to provide the Financial Sector more security so as they can continue to live in a way that they have become accustomed.

    Gordon Brown qualified his reasons for selling Gold at the bottom of the Market by saying “it was right to diversify our portfolio”, by buying EUROS?

    If Parliament is Sovereign, why do successive Chancellors of the Exchequer make decisions that lose Public Money on a grand scale? 80% of Americans were not in favour of Bank Bailouts – but they went ahead anyway.

    Because of the way Banks create money, we are told that without these bail outs, the whole Banking System would collpase (just like a Charles Ponzi investment plan). Since leaving the Gold Standard, we’ve gone from 20% Government created money to around 2.6% to 3.2%, due to changes in Capital reserves by Banks. Do Politicians not see the link between reduced proportion of Government created money (free of tax payer debt), bank bail outs, speculation and a now dangerous level of private debt?

    Despite the huge amounts of QE Money created by the Bank of England (at the press of a button), none of this has gone directly into the Economy – it’s gone straight into the Reserve Accounts of Private Banks. No attempt has been made by the Government to review our monetary system and it’s now obvious flaws. They hope to return us to a pre-Boom time so that the next “Boom and Bust” cycle can start again, but the next Bust is going to be even bigger.

    Parliament is fairly representative of Puiblic Opinion and knowledge, relying on the neo-classical Economists to advise on what to do next. There is a few Politicians who do understand the Systemic Problems and know how to fix it, but are heavily outnumbered by arrogant ignorance.

    Gordon Brown – in my view, still takes the Prize for the most incompetent Chancellor but George Osborne is now galloping up fast to take that prize away from him unless he starts listening to non neo-classical Economists who don’t receive huge Directorship payoffs from the very people who benefit from the current system.

    • Conrad Jones (Cheam)
      Posted November 23, 2012 at 5:52 pm | Permalink

      Parliament hasn’t been “Sovereign” for a very long time.

      John Major should never had signed the Maastricht Treaty; all this did was pave the way for the Tony Blair’s of the World to sell the whole Nation down the River, while letting incompetence (as brilliantly exhibited by Gordon Brown) become a virtue.

      Sovereignty means having and implementing the right to create and control our own Money, it does not mean Bailing out Zombie Incompetent Banking Institutions (Z.I.B.Is), and then hoping that even more people will get into more debt.

  30. forthurst
    Posted November 23, 2012 at 6:56 pm | Permalink

    “If many more years pass when people and Parliament do not do these things, we will reach a point where in practice Parliament has lost its sovereignty”

    If many more years pass [without taking the necessary steps to reassert our sovereignty], the English people will have ceased to exist as a significant force, and the remainder, it is already clear, would be very happy that the English people and their sovereignty did cease to exist.

    • forthurst
      Posted November 23, 2012 at 6:56 pm | Permalink

      We know that the BBC held a secret seminar concerning CAGW; however, it is important not to overlook the fact that the majority of the external attendees were professional alarmists, not scientists. In other words, the objective of the seminar was to explain to the BBC how to sell the global warming hoax to their paymasters, not to determine with whatever degree of certainty that it was either true or false. How many other seminars have there been and on what topics?

      There are many other matters of importance on which the BBC has a persistent view: the beneficence of multiculturalism and immigration, the goodness of ‘internationalism’ and the corresponding evils of parochialism, the modernity of the EU and the obsolescence of nation states, and the goodness of anything ‘left’ and the corresponding wickedness of JR. It’s simply no good trying to preach to the converted when the BBC can continue to drip its poison into the ears of the unconverted because most can be ‘turned’ by propaganda, irrespective of its plausibility.

  31. Jon
    Posted November 23, 2012 at 8:42 pm | Permalink

    The EU deliberately wants a situation whereby national governments become obsolete, surplus to requirements. They will be replaced by the regional ones already sketched out by the EU.

    The net result is that we all will have very little influence or say on anything they do. We are getting close to the time when a decision needs to be made.

    • David John Wilson
      Posted November 23, 2012 at 11:42 pm | Permalink

      If the EU has plans for an efficient plan for two levels of government perhaps we should buy into it and get away from the inefficient multiple levels that currently exist. The will be little difference at the top level between EU government and the current shambles we have in Westminster.

  32. Socrates
    Posted November 23, 2012 at 10:10 pm | Permalink

    The UK Government can regain control of the Bank of England and the Quangos by votes in the House. On the other hand powers lost to the ECHR and Acquis Communautaire are unlikely to be recovered without leaving Europe.

    Until the Conservative Leadreship acknowledge this publicly and act accordingly the haemhorrage of votes to UKIP will increase.

    What is the benefit of voting Conservative so they can sell the Country out to Europe as opposed to Labour or the Liberals doing it?

  33. uanime5
    Posted November 23, 2012 at 10:49 pm | Permalink

    Given that EU law generally stops minister from making working conditions worse I’m glad that they exist. A Parliament with unlimited power and no constitutions to give rights to the ordinary people needs to be constrained to prevent it becoming tyrannical.

    The question isn’t whether Parliament is sovereign but whether it should be sovereign. Especially when you consider the huge number of safe seats, FPTP election system, MPs that can’t be recalled, unelected upper chamber, and the lack of a devolved body for England.

  34. Max Dunbar
    Posted November 23, 2012 at 11:09 pm | Permalink

    In the unlikely event that the UK decides to repatriate powers from the EU and ECHR or even to withdraw from the EU altoghether, then the consequences of any such move could be destabilising internationally.
    Some commentators seem to think that we could revert to normal business with Europe and all would be well. This view must surely be misguided and naive. There could be a number of unpleasant consequences, such as the imposition of sanctions official or unofficial. A quick look at the past performance of the French, concerning agricultural products such as beef for example, would tend to suggest that trade with France could be badly affected. The appalling behaviour of the EU by imposing sanctions on Austria for democratically electing a robustly right-wing party a number of years ago is also best not forgotten.
    If we did elect to leave the EU then let us not be deluded by ideas of a smooth transition to trading as usual.
    It may also be worth mentioning that the possible break-up of the UK by the national-socialist SNP government in Scotland would leave our partitioned country severely diminished and more vulnerable to malevolent external forces. However, if the unity of Britain is maintained and sensible preparations and precautions are put in place well in advance then there is no reason why withdrawal should not be considered as a serious option.

  35. Posted November 24, 2012 at 7:21 pm | Permalink

    We are witnessing at the moment huge rows about the EU budget. We hear Cameron (as we have heard time and time again from PMs) saying that we will not agree with the EU Aristocrats’ budget estimates. What we do not hear is Cameron saying that the EU is far too involved in matters which do not concern it. For example, why is there an EU Health Dept? Why is the EU involved in Global Warming? Why is the EU in cahoots with the UN and the WHO?

    I think that the EU badly needs to be reformed. Far too much power is falling into the hands of unelected Aristocrats. The ‘competence’ of the EU needs to be redefined.

    I suspect that an awful lot of our MPs do not know what they are doing. For example, it was a very revealing moment to me when the former Health Minister, Milton MP, said, in the House of Commons, that the UK was legally bound to put into effect the requirements of the WHO with respect to the Tobacco Control Treaty. That is simply not true. The UK government is not and never has been obliged to enact laws which it does not wish to.

    It strikes me that the EU is far to close to the WHO and the UN. The unelected Aristocrats of the WHO and the UN are using the EU to control the people of the UK. It is not on.

  36. sm
    Posted November 24, 2012 at 11:35 pm | Permalink

    If you have to ask the question its obvious… no not in practice.. and if parliament ceases to represent the demos faithfully then given time and an opportune moment the EU may decide to remove the glove from the fist and impose direct rule or via appointed technocrats and regional assemblies.

  37. Vanessa
    Posted November 25, 2012 at 10:58 pm | Permalink

    To repeal the Communities Act as you say would probably be illegal and against all we have signed up to over 40 years. All the Treaties over that time took control of our sovereignty and they have no intention of giving any of it back. As the judiciary and police etc. are all tainted with EU control, parliament would be in a fine mess if it tried to repeal anything and our trade agreements in the future would suffer. That would be stupid.

    There is a Article 50 in the Lisbon Treaty which does allow members to leave and renegotiate the terms of their trade. I don’t doubt it would be difficult and take time to disentangle us from all the crap we have implemented but we could eventually stop paying and start governing this country.

  • About John Redwood

    John Redwood has been the Member of Parliament for Wokingham since 1987. First attending Kent College, Canterbury, he graduated from Magdalen College, and has a DPhil from All Souls, Oxford. A businessman by background, he has been a director of NM Rothschild merchant bank and chairman of a quoted industrial PLC.
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