Those who support leaving the EU are basing their argument on the fear of a loss of UK sovereignty. This however, is an incredibly weak and incorrect argument
It is true that when Parliament passed the 1972 European Communities Act it implicitly recognised the prevalence of EU law over UK law. However, the passing of the Act does not mean that the UK has lost its sovereign power. This is because it remains true that EU law only takes precedence by the will of Parliament. If Parliament specifically says that EU Law should not take precedence over English law in a specific situation or that the courts consider the EU to have exceeded its powers, then EU law will not take precedence.
It is fundamental to remember that the supremacy of EU law depends exclusively on the will of Parliament. EU law will continue to take precedence over English Law unless and until Parliament decides to amend or repeal the 1972 Act. As soon as Parliament does this, EU law will no longer take precedence because Parliament remains supreme.
I believe that if we leave the EU then the UK will lose its sovereignty. Currently, by being a member of the EU, the UK has a say in what rules are to be created and how they are to be applied, thus allowing us to exercise greater sovereignty. However, if the UK leaves the EU, but remains subject to many of its rules and regulations, then it will be obliged to comply with the rules without having had any influence over their creation. As David Cameron has recently stated, leaving the EU would simply give the ‘illusion‘ of sovereignty. Leaving then, would likely result in a substantial loss for us.
Many supporters for staying within the EU are observing that the UK’s membership of NATO also implies a loss of sovereignty. Article 5 of NATO requires the UK to come to the mutual defence of fellow members. However, in the case of NATO, no arguments are ever put forward that the UK should leave because of diminished sovereignty. Why? Because we consider membership to be a sensible and worthy price for national security. The same argument applies to the UK’s membership of the World Trade Organisation where it is obliged to supranational regulation and arbitration.
Just as with NATO and the WTO, we should see any potential loss of sovereignty as being outweighed by the advantages of staying within the EU.
There is an argument that parliamentary sovereignty no longer exists. In the words of Jonathan Freedland in an article published by the Guardian, ‘Britain can no more be sovereign alone in the face of global terror, mass migration or climate change than Canute could be master of the waves’. If this is the case, then this is further evidence that a fear of diminished sovereignty should not be the reason why the UK leaves the EU. If we do leave, there must be some other decisive evidence demonstrating why this is the best course of action. Currently, there has been none.