Regaining Sovereignty? Brexit, the UK Parliament and the Common Law

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Series Details Volume 22, Number 1, Pages 131-147
Publication Date March 2016
ISSN 1354-3725
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In this paper, we compare how the term ‘sovereignty’ was used by MPs in parliamentary debates on the European Communities Bill in 1971–1972 and the European Union Bill in 2011. In both cases, the language of sovereignty was often a placeholder for deeper concerns about the erosion of the political power exercisable by domestic political institutions.

Comparing parliamentary debates separated by almost forty years reveals a shift from concerns primarily about the erosion of sovereignty by the law-making powers of European political institutions towards concerns about its erosion by the courts, and the domestic courts at that. We reflect on these concerns to evaluate whether a possible UK withdrawal from the EU would lead to a ‘regaining’ of sovereignty.

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