I know I’ve been away a few weeks – we all need a blog break occasionally – but I’m back with a bang, with a piece at the Guardian Law website yesterday on William Hague’s proposed “national sovereignty” clause, which he intends to put before Parliament in his EU Bill later this year to “reaffirm once and for all the sovereignty of our ancient parliament”. I think he’s monkeying around with the constitution:
There is no need to enshrine parliamentary sovereignty in legislation. Indeed, doing so is in the truest sense redundant: a national sovereignty clause can only have legal authority because of the existing common law rule that parliament is sovereign. What’s more, Hague’s clause will need to be carefully drafted to make sure it cannot possibly be read as in any way affecting or limiting the common law sovereignty on which it depends – or it could have unintended but far-reaching constitutional ramifications.
Read the whole thing here. I’m amazed that the Conservatives of all people should have got themselves so muddled about the legal relationship between the UK and the EU, and about what Parliamentary sovereignty is, that their foreign secretary is putting forward legislation interfering with the absolute essence of our legal system, and arguably representing the biggest single step we’ve ever made towards a written constitution – something that’d be a historic mistake, and hardly a conservative move.
I also spoke to Charon QC about this today, and recorded a podcast about it in which I do my best to explain Parliamentary sovereignty in a nutshell, then to set out what I think the problems are with Hague’s proposal, including what might happen if it’s repealed, the need for it to be drafted more carefully than perhaps any legislation has been before and the dangers of creating a “two-tier” system of sovereignty. Charon’s absolutely right, at the beginning of our talk, to call Hague’s idea “extraordinary”.