The EEC, which has evolved into the EU, was introduced by people who claimed we could “pool” our sovereignty. This they said would make us more powerful. I have often written and spoken about the dangers of confusing power with sovereignty. Today I want to explain why you can only have one sovereign. It is time for the UK to choose whether it wishes to enjoy self government through the UK Parliament or whether it does now wish to be governed by the EU as Commissioner Reding and others have asserted.
The experiment with twin sovereigns or shared or pooled sovereignty is breaking down from both sides. UK democrats are increasingly frustrated at a range of decisions made for us by the EU. A majority in the UK wants self government so we can make our own decisions about benefits, energy, welfare and borders amongst others. At the same time the federalists, mainly in the Brussels government but also among some of the other member states, are frustrated that the UK is still a “difficult” partner, querying too many EU decisions, seeking to slow down the necessary march to more federal power and seeking to prevent more unanimous and majority decisions at the EU level.
So called pooled sovereignty or shared power only works when both so called sovereigns agree on strategy and tactics. In the EU that means the junior members, the national governments, have to accept the view of the senior member, the EU, that on the big calls the EU is in charge. The EU for example settles budget deficit levels, imposes VAT as a general EU tax with control over the level of the imposition, controls borders and now imposes a common Convention of Human rights. The member states have to go along with a continuous process of more and more decisions and power going to Brussels. In other words, EU sovereignty is not pooled or shared. The ultimate sovereign – that means the only sovereign- in the EU model is the EU. This will become increasingly apparent as the EU completes the process of expanding the range of its activities and the extent of its powers through its vast legislative programme.
Mr Justice Mostyn has recently set out how the EU sovereign now overrules the UK Parliament. Parliament under a pro EU Labour government decided that some elements of the EU Convention on Human Rights were unsuitable for the UK and left them out of the UK legislation. The Labour government thought they had secured a Lisbon settlement that avoided the EU Convention becoming UK law. However, the senior Judge now concludes “it would seem that the much wider Charter of Human Rights is now part of our domestic law”. Something we did not want is now directly acting despite Parliament’s wishes.
On 20 November 2013 The European Scrutiny Committee of Parliament under the tenacious chairmanship of Mr William Cash produced a most important unanimous report. They concluded:
“Not only do we recommend a strengthening of the scrutiny reserve, we conclude that now is the time to propose the introduction of a form of national veto over EU legislative proposals, and then to explore the mechanics of disapplication of parts of existing EU obligations, notwithstanding the European Communities Act 1972″
This conclusion is necessary and wise. It is directly in line with the promise made in the July 1971 White Paper on our membership of the EEC. In that again the government wisely said:
“All countries concerned recognise that an attempt to impose a majority view in a case where one or more members considered their vital national interests to be at stake would imperil the very fabric of the community”
They understood then that you cannot have two sovereigns. They also understood that democratic legitimacy and ultimate power had to rest with the member states. Tomorrow I will look at how the UK Parliament could reassert this essential truth.