L437 (New Edition)

“Membership of the Institutions of the European Union is Incompatible with Parliamentary Sovereignty”

“There is no question of any erosion of essential national sovereignty,” insisted Tory Prime Minister Edward Health. Yet, after the United Kingdom accepted the Treaty of Accession in 1972, 2,900 EU regulations and 410 directives were incorporated into English law. National legislature lost some of its sovereignty as the European Union was given increased powers. These rulings call into doubt the concept of parliamentary sovereignty, which is the cornerstone of the British legal system and helps to guarantee that parliament retains control. These concerns are not ill-founded. EU membership imposes a number of laws and ensures EU laws trump national laws, mainly where conflict arises, posing the most significant challenge to parliamentary sovereignty and raising the problem of incompatibility.

A correlation between EU Supremacy and EU membership ensures these two institutions operate in tandem with European Union Community and national laws. EU law predominates in areas where member states have chosen to delegate authority to the EU. It is crucial to keep in mind that only in cases where EU member states have chosen to delegate authority to the EU does EU law predominate. These include the infrastructure, environmental regulations, and the common market, among other things, but remain irrelevant regarding social policy and taxes.

Unlike many other EU nations, concerns about political unification are more common in the United Kingdom. The United Kingdom lacks a codified constitution that outlines the scope of the government’s authority. Laws may be modified at any time, treaties can be broken, and EU membership is never really binding. The only thing that restricts Parliament’s power is the sovereignty of future legislatures. A Person or organization cannot use English law to invalidate or overturn a law created by Parliament since Parliament has the sovereign authority to pass or alter any legislation at any moment. The immutable concept of Parliamentary Sovereignty naturally contradicts the EU Supremacy and EU membership.

The direct applicability of EU laws thwarts the sovereignty of parliaments. Article 288 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union states that treaty provisions and regulations are deemed “directly applicable.” They immediately become a part of national law due to the member states’ participation in the EU. They do not need the adoption of any enabling legislation by the member states. This suggests that the member countries do not need to pass any enabling legislation.

All immediately applicable European legislations are incorporated in the body of UK national law, leaving UK Parliament with no selective compliance. A “directly applicable law” is a piece of European law that applies directly to the legal system of a Member State without the need for further legislation. Consequently, any rights or duties established by the treaty must have an immediate legal force in England. This contradicts the constitutional concept of parliamentary sovereignty since directly applicable European legislation is instantaneously merged into the national law in the United Kingdom without the need for Parliament to adopt or reject the measure. If directly applicable Community law, such as a rule or provision of a Treaty Article, and domestic law, such as legislation, are in conflict, there is a danger of misunderstanding. Because paragraph (1) of section 2 clearly states that directly applicable legislation becomes an instant part of national law, Community law will take precedence over UK national law. Given that Parliament in the United Kingdom is obligated to approve immediately relevant European Union legislation, one may argue that Parliament is no longer the supreme authority for making laws.

Nonetheless, the EU’s supremacy in legislative matters is not always acknowledged, and not all EU legal acts are “directly applicable.” For instance, directives do not supersede until they have been implemented into national law and are relevant. Directive rules need new legislation from each member state in order to implement EU directives into their own national legal systems. For example, the UK made the Re-use of Public Sector Information Regulations 2015 (No. 1415) to implement the EU Directive on the re-use of public sector information. Although the indirect applicability of directives left the UK with autonomy to some extent, the UK still needed to implement the directives in the time frame given by the EU, or the Court of Justice of the European Union would intervene.

European Court of Justice eroded parliamentary sovereignty, primarily when the conflict between community and national law arose. Parliamentary sovereignty is a crucial idea in the British Constitution, granting Parliament supreme legislative authority. This concept serves as the basis for the judicial system as well. However, when national and EU laws disagreed, EU legislation had more weight. The legal proceedings involving Factortame that occurred in 1990 and 1991 explicitly established that the European Community law prevailed against the Merchant Shipping Act of 1988. When legal conflicts between national and EU laws occurred, the UK was obligated to amend its domestic legislation to conform to the EU norm. The concept of the primacy of EU law mandates that EU law take precedence. This concept is often called “precedence.” If this were not the case, when there is a dispute between a component of EU law and a part of the law of a member country (national law), EU member states might simply allow their national laws to take priority over main or secondary EU legislation, making it impossible to implement EU policy.

European Community law is fundamentally incompatible with parliamentary sovereignty. When European Community law and domestic law clash, European Community law is more important and takes precedence. This essentially violates the notion of sovereignty since Parliament is no longer the ultimate lawmaking body, and some aspects of Community law may reverse its decisions and influence the legislative process. The term emphasizes the supremacy of European law over national law, even where the two are incongruous. Alternatively, it is essential that European law continue to take precedence over federal law to ensure consistency across the Community and form a single market. Individual member states of the European Union giving their own national laws precedence over European Community law would be detrimental to the legal standing of the Community as a whole and may threaten its very existence. In the judgment supported by a 1979 ruling of the European Court of Justice in Hauer v. Land Rhineland-Pfalz, the court found that subordinating Community law to national law would eventually undermine the creation of a coherent single market leading to the disintegration of the Common Market.

Additionally, in the case of Van Gend en Loos v. Nederlandse Administratie der Belastingen (Case 26/62), the European Court of Justice declared that laws adopted by EU member states must be integrated into national legal frameworks in order to be implemented. This decision was issued in response to the allegation that the legislation must be included into the legal frameworks of EU member states. As a result, European Union law has taken precedence over national legislation. All national legislation, regardless of when it was enacted in reference to the relevant EU rules, must be brought into accordance with the supremacy of EU law. The concept of primacy seeks to ensure that all European Union (EU) members give the same level of protection in line with EU legislation. This is due to the fact that EU legislation is now seen as surpassing national law.

As Britain entered the European Union voluntarily and retained the legal ability to withdraw at any moment, the country’s parliament arguably maintained supremacy and sovereignty to some extent. As shown by Brexit, Parliament held its sovereign status as the institution with the most authority without dispute. However, although the EU referendum voting gives the British parliament complete control over domestic policy again, it crystalizes the sovereignty of collective decisions rather than the sovereignty of parliament. Also, given that Parliament does not have selective compliance with EU laws and EU laws trump UK national laws, it is very improbable to incorporate Parliamentary Sovereignty and EU Supremacy. UK participation in the EU directly and profoundly impacted the constitutional principle of parliamentary sovereignty. No longer could Parliament be considered the supreme legal power, capable of passing or rescinding any legislation at will. In addition, laws need to be consistent with various aspects of Community law; this lessens sovereignty while highlighting the preeminence of Community law and the incompatibility of two sovereign institutions governing the UK and the European Union Community.

British Parliament lost sovereignty during the 47 years of EU membership, and it still has a long way to go. As a result of the resettlement, Parliament will be asked to make decisions on broad-ranging issues like foreign and defense policy, controlling immigration and its impact on the labor market, the rights of EU citizens currently residing in the UK and UK citizens living in the other EU 27 countries, and the future of trade relations between the UK and the EU. Health’s phrase has been proved wrong, but Parliament still has a long way to go.

Bibliography

Brack, Nathalie, Ramona Coman, and Amandine Crespy. “Unpacking old and new conflicts of sovereignty in the European polity.” Journal of European Integration 41, no. 7 (2019): 817-832.

Connolly, Christopher K. “Independence in Europe: secession, sovereignty, and the European Union.” Duke J. Comp. & Int’l L. 24 (2013): 51.

Egeberg, Morten, and Jarle Trondal. “Why strong coordination at one level of government is incompatible with strong coordination across levels (and how to live with it): The case of the European Union.” Public Administration 94, no. 3 (2016): 579-592.

Elliott, Mark. “United Kingdom: Parliamentary sovereignty under pressure.” Int’l J. Const. L. 2 (2004): 545.

Ene, Marilena. “Van Gend en Loos Case.” Tax Mag. (2021): 304.

Ewing, Keith. “Brexit and parliamentary sovereignty.” The Modern Law Review 80, no. 4 (2017): 711-726.

Gordon, Michael. “The UK’s Sovereignty Situation: Brexit, Bewilderment and Beyond….” King’s Law Journal 27, no. 3 (2016): 333-343.

Heppell, Timothy, Andrew Crines, and David Jeffery. “The United Kingdom referendum on European Union membership: The voting of conservative parliamentarians.” JCMS: Journal of Common Market Studies 55, no. 4 (2017): 762-778.

Otjes, Simon, and Harmen Van Der Veer. “The Eurozone crisis and the European Parliament’s changing lines of conflict.” European Union Politics 17, no. 2 (2016): 242-261.

Trindade, F. A. “Parliamentary Sovereignty and the Primacy of European Community Law.” Mod. L. Rev. 35 (1972): 375.

“The Re-Use of Public Sector Information Regulations 2015.” Legislation.gov.uk. Queen’s Printer of Acts of Parliament, January 10, 2017. https://www.legislation.gov.uk/uksi/2015/1415/contents/made.

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