European Union Act 2011
|Long title||An Act to make provision about treaties relating to the European Union and decisions made under them, including provision implementing the Protocol signed at Brussels on 23 June 2010 amending the Protocol (No. 36) on transitional provisions annexed to the Treaty on European Union, to the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union and to the Treaty establishing the European Atomic Energy Community; and to make provision about the means by which directly applicable or directly effective European Union law has effect in the United Kingdom.|
|Introduced by||William Hague|
|Territorial extent||United Kingdom (and Gibraltar in part)|
|Royal Assent||19 July 2011|
|Commencement||19 July 2011, 19 August 2011, 19 September 2011|
Status: Current legislation
|Text of statute as originally enacted|
The European Union Act 2011 is an Act of the Parliament of the United Kingdom, requiring that a referendum be held on amendments of the Treaty on European Union or the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union. Introduced in the House of Commons by Her Majesty's Principal Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, William Hague on 11 November 2010, the Bill received its Second Reading by 330-195 on 7 December, and was passed by the Commons on 8 March 2011. The Bill was read a second time in the Lords on 22 March, after a hostile reception by Peers. The Act received Royal Assent on 19 July 2011.
The Bill was a reaction to the European Union (Amendment) Act 2008, which had in the UK instituted the Treaty of Lisbon with no participation by the Labour Prime Minister of the day, Gordon Brown and with no referendum, although one had been promised in 2005 in the Labour manifesto.
The Conservative - Liberal Democrat Coalition Agreement pledged:
- to "ensure that there is no further transfer of sovereignty or powers over the course of the next Parliament";
- to "amend the 1972 European Communities Act so that any proposed future treaty that transferred areas of power, or competences, would be subject to a referendum on that treaty"; and
- to "examine the case for a United Kingdom Sovereignty Bill to make it clear that ultimate authority remains with Parliament".
The Queen's speech reaffirmed that legislation would be introduced "to ensure that in future this Parliament and the British people have their say on any proposed transfer of powers to the European Union".
The Act requires a referendum to be held on any amendment of the Treaty on European Union or the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union made by treaty, and requires that any use of a passerelle provision must be approved by an Act of Parliament at least.
The Act also enables ratification of a transitional protocol relating to the number of members of the European Parliament.
Section 18: The Sovereignty Clause
On 6 October 2010, the Government announced that the Act would include a provision "to underline that what a sovereign Parliament can do, a sovereign Parliament can always undo". The clause, eventually enacted as section 18 of the Act provides that:
"Directly applicable or directly effective EU law (that is, the rights, powers, liabilities, obligations, restrictions, remedies and procedures referred to in section 2(1) of the European Communities Act 1972) falls to be recognised and available in law in the United Kingdom only by virtue of that Act or where it is required to be recognised and available in law by virtue of any other Act."
- Hansard: Volume No. 470 Part No. 34 House of Commons Debates January 21, 2008 and see Division #50.
- Hansard vol.470, part 34, col.1256 see "Mr. Redwood: Does my right hon. Friend further remember that during the 2005 election, when some of us said that we needed to debate this huge transfer of powers because it was so important, the Labour party said that there was no need for that debate in the election, because there would be a referendum later? That is why this is such a cheat." And Hansard vol.470, part 34, col. 1314, remarks by Mr. Francois
- The Coalition: our programme for government p. 19, Her Majesty's Government, Cabinet Office, May 2010, Ref: 401238/0510
- Lords Hansard 25 May 2010
- Foreign and Commonwealth Office, "EU Bill to include Parliamentary sovereignty clause" (London, 6 October 2010)