To understand if Parliamentary sovereignty has or has not diminished by the joining of the European Union (EU) in 1973 we must first look at the traditional meaning of Parliamentary sovereignty.

Authors Avatar


To understand if Parliamentary sovereignty has or has not diminished by the joining of the European Union (EU)  in 1973 we must first look at the traditional meaning of Parliamentary sovereignty. The writings of influential author on the British constitutional law Professor A.V, Dicey , states that Parliament supremacy is ‘the dominant characteristic of our political institutions’ and went further on by saying ‘ The principle of Parliamentary sovereignty means neither more nor less than this, namely that parliament… has under the English constitution, the right to make or unmake any law whatever; and, further, that no person or body is recognised by the law of England as having a right to override or set aside the legislation Parliament. So here Dicey believes Parliament is sovereign and no body or institution can overrule Parliament.

  One of the traditional principles of Parliamentary sovereignty is the the principle that courts must be obedient to Acts of Parliament, which is illustrated in the case of Madzimbamuto where Cockburn CJ held ‘it would be unconstitutional for Parliament to do certain things…if parliament chose to do one of these things the courts cannot hold the Act of Parliament invalid.’

  Another important principle is implied repeal which means Parliament is unable to bind its successors, it follows legislation enacted by one Parliament cannot be immune from amendment or repeal from legislation enacted by another Parliament. This can be illustrated by the Vauxhall Estates Ltd v Liverpool Corporation case.

To see if Parliamentary sovereignty has been affected since joining the EU we must briefly understand the EU and how the UK joined.

    The United Kingdom joined the EU in 1973, The European Community was already set up when the UK joined, and currently there are 27 member states a part of the Union

    The EU like the United Kingdom has their own sources of law, Such as primary sources these are the Treaties. They also have secondary laws which are Acts adopted from other EU institutions. And finally decisions made by the Court of Justice which will be binding in the future.

    It can be argued that the United Kingdom is currently sitting increasingly uncomfortably in a constitutional landscape which is being transformed through membership of the EU

   Before Joining the EU in 1973 the United Kingdom will have been well aware on the issue of EU supremacy and direct effect these doctrines are at the heart the very heart of the EU legal order and were introduced early on in the integration process.

    Direct effect allows individuals to rely upon a provision of EU law in domestic courts, regardless whether a member state has introduced specific national law to implement the provisions. So under this doctrine it is clear that Parliament even if they have addressed an issue, if the outcome of that law is not uniformly the same as the EU law, then it will be in conflict and will have to be readdressed as in the case of Van Gend en Loos

   A major issue which has affected parliamentary sovereignty in the UK is the issue of EU Law supremacy. It is interesting to note that the Treaty of Rome is silent on the issue of supremacy. But Long before the UK joined the EU, the Court of Justice had already made it clear that in the case of Costa v ENEL that ‘the member states have limited their sovereign rights, albeit within limited fields, and have thus created a body of law that binds both their nationals and themselves.’

Join now!

They went further ‘By contrast with ordinary treaties, the E.E.C. Treaty has created its own legal system which on entry into force of the treaty becomes an integral part of the legal systems of the member states and which their courts are bound to apply.”

The court of justice also held ‘to have regard to rules or concepts of national law even constitutions would affect the uniformity of application across member states’

   From these cases we can establish that the ECJ wanted to make it firmly clear that member states will be losing some of their sovereignty and will ...

This is a preview of the whole essay