The EU and the constitution

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The EU and the constitution

The European Communities Act 1972 was passed by Parliament.

  • This allowed the UK to join the European Community on the 11th January 1973.

Areas of policy passed to the European Union:

  • Trade
  • Agriculture and fishing
  • Employment law
  • Consumer law
  • Competition control
  • Regional economic development.
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Areas of policy where EU membership influences

EU membership influences areas of policy including:

  • Economic policy
  • Environmental protection Defence
  • Foreign policy
  • Overseas development
  • Asylum and Immigration.

EU has no control over certain areas of policy including:

  • Education
  • Health provision
  • Social security
  • Law, and Order and Justice
  • Moral legislation
  • Local Govt services
  • Personal taxation
  • Internal political system.


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Where political and legal sovereignty lie

EU laws are superior to UK law:

  • This was established in 1990, in the case of Factortame, in the Appeal Court of the HOL.
  • Therefore, British courts must implement EU law.
  • Interpretation of EU must be referred upwards to the European Court of Justice, which was established in the 1993 case: Regina v International Stock Exchange.

However, the UK does not have to sacrifice sovereignty for proposals that require unanimous vote in the EU Council of Ministers, to become EU law:

  • This is because it has an effective veto.
  • E.g. The UK has vetoed any attempts to harmonise taxation throughout Europe.
  • However, where proposals can become EU law with a qualified majority vote in the Council of Ministers, the UK must submit to shared sovereignty of the EU.
  • Parliament cannot pass any laws that conflicts with EU law.
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Where has sovereignty in the UK gone

Where has sovereignty been transferred to:

  • A great deal of political sovereignty has been transferred away from Parliament to the Prime Minister and the government, and the people through referendums.
  • Since devolution in 1998, a good deal of political sovereignty has been transferred to the Scottish, Welsh and Northern Irish assemblies and govts.
  • However, Parliament remains legally sovereign because it can reclaim these powers delegated to these bodies, at any time.
  • On the other hand, legal sovereignty has been transferred to the EU, which is known as 'pooled sovereignty.'
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