It's no secret that the Conservative party doesn't want to see shifts in power go to the EU. So what does this legislation provide?
With reference to this Bill the Coalition government after it's formation pledged:
- to "ensure that there is no further transfer of sovereignty or powers over the course of the next Parliament";
- to "amend the 1972 European Communities Act so that any proposed future treaty that transferred areas of power, or competences, would be subject to a referendum on that treaty"; and
- to "examine the case for a United Kingdom Sovereignty Bill to make it clear that ultimate authority remains with Parliament".
In providing that EU shifts of power go to a referendum what would that mean for UK's place on the EU? At the moment it would be unlikely that even the smallest shift of power to the EU would win in a referendum unless public opinion also shifts towards pro EU.
It will be interesting to see how this will affect future Parliaments. If the EU attempts to gain more control as it inevitably will, how will future Parliaments act? Interestingly a referendum is to be called upon the opinion of a Minister as to whether power is being shifted. It begs the question then as to whether more pro EU governments would feel a need to take changes in EU treaties to a referendum by arguing that power isn't being shifted. A future Parliament could of course repeal the legislation, but politically that could be suicide as no government would want to be seen as taking Constitutional decisions away from the people.
In requiring any changes to Treaties to go before Parliament, it can be said that the government has reinforced the tradition of Parliamentary Sovereignty. However in requiring power shifts to be placed before the people in the form of a referendum, it could be argued that the government has taken a further step above and beyond Parliamentary Sovereignty that may provide a deadlock with future reforms of the UK's place in the EU.
European Union Act 2011
The EU BIll explained, Guardian
Anyone notice..... the European Union Act, Telegraph
Foreign and Commonwealth Office