CHAPTER 4: Conclusions |
64. The European Union Bill is a complex Bill,
one that contains many highly technical provisions. This in part
reflects the intricate dynamics of European integration with which
the Bill seeks to grapple. But it is also in part the product
of a very detailed specification of, in particular, the referendum
lock. We are concerned that this hinders transparency and accessibility
in an important new element of constitutional law.
65. The Bill breaks new ground in the UK constitution
by its imposition of referendum requirements on such a large scale.
In the terms of our report, Referendums in the United Kingdom,
we note that a measure such as the UK joining the euro could sensibly
be considered a "fundamental constitutional issue".
But this is not the case with very many of the targets of
referendum locks. We conclude that many of the referendum locks
are unlikely ever to be used, either as a matter of policy or
by reason of practical difficulty.
66. Clauses 7 to 10 of the Bill represent
useful additions to Parliament's role.
67. Clause 18 rehearses the fundamental constitutional
principle that directly effective and directly applicable EU law
only takes effect in the UK legal order through the will of Parliament
and by virtue of an Act of Parliament.
68. The simplified revision procedures are commonly
described as seeking to grease the wheels of European integration.
Conversely, the control mechanisms set out in the European Union
Bill seek to limit this effect. (Para 16)
69. We draw attention to the complex and highly
technical nature of the referendum lock provisions in Part 1.
The multiple specification of individual Treaty provisions hinders
rather than helps transparency and accessibility in the law. (Para
70. The European Union Bill is a radical step-change
in the adoption of referendum provisions. (Para 36)
71. In our judgement, the resort to referendums
contemplated in the European Union Bill is not confined to the
category of fundamental constitutional issues on which a UK-wide
referendum may be judged to be appropriate. Furthermore, many
of the Bill's provisions are inconsistent with the Government's
statement that referendums are most appropriately used in relation
to fundamental constitutional issues. (Para 37)
72. We agree with the re-balancing of domestic
constitutional arrangements in favour of Parliament. (Para 40)
73. The referendum lock is primarily designed
to target possible developments during the lifetime of a successor
Parliament. We think it appropriate to reaffirm the fundamental
constitutional principle that no Parliament may bind its successors.
We consider it axiomatic that, as with any other Bill, Parliament
could repeal or amend any or all of the control mechanisms established
by the Bill, including the referendum lock provisions. (Para 44)
74. We accept that ministerial statements required
by clause 5 could be subject to judicial review proceedings. (Para
75. Geared to formal legal change at the European
Union level, the control mechanisms in Part 1 cannot contend with
multiple political and administrative processes of collaboration,
co-ordination and networking that are widely seen as drawing the
Member States more closely together. Nor can these mechanisms
control the future jurisprudence of the Court of Justice concerning
the principles of EU law. We draw attention to these limitations.
76. We agree with the European Scrutiny Committee
that the ruling in Thoburn reflected the well understood
and orthodox position. Clause 18 is self-evident: it restates,
but does not change, the law. (Para 58)
77. We are confident that if parliamentary sovereignty
were to be questioned in any other context, the existence of clause
18 would not prevent the courts from upholding the well understood
and orthodox position. (Para 60)
78. We commend the decision to revise the Explanatory
Notes. (Para 63)