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Is Britain’s sovereignty in danger?

Posted by Roch Dunin-Wąsowicz (Admin) 1 month ago

Sovereignty was a key issue throughout the campaign, and Michael Gove was adamant that it was the “overwhelming reason” for the UK voting to leave the EU. To understand if British sovereignty is at risk, there needs to be an understanding of what ‘sovereignty’ actually is.

Visual Guide to the blog: 
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Sovereignty can be understood as the supreme authority of a government, by which it is able to govern itself independently, without the interference of other nations. For example, the UK chose to set up the NHS while the US decided not to offer universal healthcare.

Now that we have established what sovereignty is, let’s look at whether the UK will gain sovereignty after Brexit. The ‘Vote Leave’ side argued that membership of the EU threatened the supreme authority of Parliament. Being a member of the EU means that we are subject to the principle of supremacy of the ECJ, which means that European law trumps national law. This is a popular idea. Indeed, Theresa May has suggested introducing the Great Repeal Bill to retrieve legislative powers from the EU.

Brexit could help to strengthen UK sovereignty. However, how sovereignty will be returned to the UK is not clear. The Great Repeal Bill is likely to result in the Henry VIII clauses being invoked when deciding which EU laws to keep and which to cut. This arrangement means that ministers and public services can avoid any EU law becoming UK law, without going through parliament. Legislation will be passed without scrutiny from elected officials, undermining the influence and importance of the country's democratic institution, Parliament.

Both Scotland and Northern Ireland voted to remain within the EU, and this has raised the question of whether they should be allowed to remain EU members by becoming independent. This creates the potential for future referendums in these countries. Even if the UK remains a unified state, it is unclear how the EU powers will be divided up between the four regions or whether they will remain solely in Westminster. The legislative powers, which the UK hopes to take back from the EU, may return powers back to the government but not necessarily to UK citizens.

Brexit can be seen to both increase and reduce parliamentary sovereignty. In theory, an exit from the EU will allow the UK to have control over all of its laws. However, Brexit may reduce parliamentary scrutiny and threaten the unity of the UK. Before we enter the minefield that is the negotiation process, we need to consider what kind of sovereign state we want to be.

Share your views and suggestions and contribute to the debate on the Generation Brexit platform now! 

Alice Stewart, Isabel Flanagan, and Ellie Couchman

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This post was edited on Jun 23, 2017 by Roch Dunin-Wąsowicz

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Comments (2)

Lev Bronstein says... 1 month ago

This article takes a very english centric approach to the idea of UK sovereignty. If its arguing that referendums and possible successions would weaken the sovereignty of UK but that would just be English sovereignty over those it has held under its imperial boot for hundreds of years. Brexit will lead to the liberation and self determination of those people and there freedom

Ellie Couchman says... 1 month ago

Thanks for your point Lev. Please could you elaborate what you mean? 

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