Our own laws, our own parliament

“We should make our own laws in our own parliament” — this is a favourite slogan of the Brexit brigade. What’s the truth behind it?

Of course, we do make our own laws in our own parliament — but that very same parliament has decided that some laws should be made jointly with our neighbouring countries in the European Union.

According to the House of Commons library, some 13% of our laws are adopted jointly at European level — so 87% are entirely a national matter.

Let’s remember that the bulk of EU legislation is about having common rules for the common market to make it work fairly and protect consumers, workers and the environment. This is not something that easily can be done through different and divergent legislation in each country.

When we do adopt laws at European level, the draft is sent first to national parliaments, so that they can (if they do their job properly) mandate their minister before he or she goes to Brussels. Then any proposal requires the agreement of the EU Council, with a minister from each country around the table, and of a majority of MEPs in the European Parliament. (The European Commission does not decide on EU legislation — it can only put forward suggestions and proposals).

So, next time you hear inflated claims about the bulk of our laws being imposed by Brussels on hapless Britain, take it with a pinch of salt.

(Of course, it might be that what eurosceptics mean by this slogan is not that they reject the idea of Europe-wide laws – but rather that they want a unilateral right to ignore such laws after they have been agreed. That’s a different claim, with its own flaws, as I discussed in a blog post last week.)

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One Comment

  1. I support the UK staying in the EU. The sovereignty argument does have some validity, however. Democracy is supposed to mean that if a law fails to work, or if it becomes to be seen as a bad law, then our elected representatives can be mandated to change it. If they fail to do so to an extent felt to be sufficient by the electorate, then they can be replaced. The ‘distance’ between the electorate and the elected needs to be close to permit this approach to work. Within the EU, the ability of the electors to mandate the lawmakers to change things when required is too great. The electors are too ‘distant’ and are thereby made toothless. How can we who are in favour of ‘europe’ address this?

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