The EU and the UK
The European Union was seen as a platform for close collaboration of European countries that would ensure their stability and ability to address threats associated with globalization. Ironically, one of the central goals of the EU was the struggle against nationalist conflicts that led to two World Wars in the 20th century (History of the European Union 2015). The UK became a member state in 1973, and proponents of the membership stress that it gives various economic, financial, and safety benefits to the country (Fontaine 2010). Nonetheless, many people are concerned with the political agenda of the UK, and many claim that the EU empowerment has eroded the UK parliament’s sovereignty. It is necessary to look into the context of the EU institutions and case law and their effects on the UK political domain.
Major EU institutions
The primary legislative body of the European Union is European Parliament that legislates, controls the EU budget, and supervises other EU institutions. At present, the UK representatives hold 73 seats, which makes the country well-represented alongside such countries as Germany, France, and Italy (Slide 00 EU institutions n.d.). The European Council is an important EU institution that participates in the appointment of key figures including the heads of the European Council, The European Commission, the Executive Board of the ECB (European Central Bank). It can be regarded as an executive branch of power in the European Union. The judicial branch is represented by the European Court of Justice that enforces the laws in the member states.
The EU law and the sovereignty of the UK Parliament
Membership in the EU provides various opportunities to the member states. These opportunities include free trade among the member states and access to labor markets of the countries of the EU as well as economic stability that can be easily disrupted by the exit of any country. This stability is one of the reasons UK political elites advocate the EU membership as they believe that the UK will face significant economic and social issues that will not be easily solved (Tony Blair speech on EU membership 2015). The recent trends existing in the UK society show that economic benefits overweigh the political concerns of Eurosceptics (Cameron: Brexit could pose national security risks 2015). However, EU membership opponents’ voices are becoming more and more pronounced.
Margaret Thatcher was one of the supporters of the common market but an ardent opponent of a significant integration especially in the political sphere (Auer 2012). Nonetheless, the EU continued developing and became quite a rigid unity of member states that had to comply with the requirements assigned. Thus, the EU laws prevail over national regulations (Slide 01 Supremacy and EU law n.d.). More so, EU laws are often in conflict with national regulations. It is possible to consider a number of examples to understand the way the EU legislation affects the UK political agenda.
One of the examples of intrusion into the UK legislative sovereignty is the case “Gillan and Quinton v. the United Kingdom – 4158/05  ECHR 28 (12 January 2010)” (Slide 02 Human Rights n.d.). In 2010, the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) decided that the UK stop and search powers were a violation of human rights (the right to privacy). It was decided that the sections concerning stop and search powers violated the Convention (Article 8). In this case, the state member UK was deprived of the right to use particular tools to guarantee its citizens’ safety. Some provisions were regarded as inconsistent with the regulations of the EU legislation.
It is possible to consider another example that is concerned with labor law. In Macarthy’s case (1980), the UK law was overridden by the EU law (Slide 02: EU laws uni version n.d.). Ms. Smith claimed that she got a lower salary, which was due to discriminatory practices which violated the Equal Pay Act 1970 as well as the Treaty of the European Community. According to the Equal Pay Act 1970, however, individuals could not compare their salaries to other employees. The UK court decided that the company’s payment policies were lawful. However, the ECJ decided that the company had to pay equal salaries, and Ms. Smith won the case. Clearly, the EU law violated some of the provisions of the UK law.
It is also possible to consider another illustration of the way the EU legislation affects the UK regulations. Mrs. Mashall’s Case (1986) facilitated a discussion and led to the change of the UK labor law. Mrs. Marshall challenged the legality of her dismissal at the age of 62 as she claimed this practice violated the Equal Treatment Directive 76/207 of 1976 that “prohibits discrimination in all conditions of work, including dismissal” (Landau & Beigbeder 2008, p. 43). It was decided that the dismissal was discriminatory, and Mrs. Marshall won the case. This case had a considerable effect on the UK political agenda as the UK Sex Discrimination Act 1975 was changed and provisions concerning the dismissal were removed. As a result, women can be dismissed at the same age as males can. Landau and Beigbeder (2008) add that this leads to another potentially discriminatory practice as women can work as long as males do while men do not have an opportunity to be dismissed at the age women can.
Apart from these direct effects on the UK legislation, the EU regulations have a specific impact on the UK political agenda. Wellings and Vines (2015) explore an unexpected outcome of the correlation between the EU legislation and the UK Parliament’s sovereignty. Various political parties and groups are trying to achieve some popularity by speculating on issues associated with nationalism and European integration (Wellings & Vines 2015). Thus, some radical groups are trying to win British people’s votes appealing to nationalist trends. It is also necessary to add that EU laws have been associated with the lobbying interests of certain groups (The truth about the European Union 2014). This extends to the UK economic sector and may negatively affect the development of the country’s economy. Clearly, the focus on the interests of particular groups compromises the EU as well. Likewise, the UK exit can lead to the disintegration of the EU, which faces a number of challenges.
On balance, it is possible to note that the EU institutions erode the sovereignty of the UK Parliament in many ways. The country has to comply with the imposed regulations even if they contradict national laws. This adds uncertainty to the legislative and judicial spheres. However, the exit of the United Kingdom is a complex issue that has to be considered thoroughly. The country has become quite integrated into the EU, and the exit can result in various negative consequences. This can disrupt the balance and bring numerous economic and social issues to the fore. Therefore, it is important to make sure that the UK will manage to remain one of the EU member states, but the union has to become more flexible especially when it comes to the political sphere. National legislation often reflects the cultural peculiarities of member states, and violation of national laws may contribute to the popularity of the EU disintegration ideas since people will feel that their traditions are sacrificed due to some unclear values.
Auer, S 2012, ‘Europe between reckless optimism and reckless despair’, Policy, vol. 28, no. 1, pp. 19-23.
Cameron: Brexit could pose national security risks 2015, Web.
Fontaine, P 2010, Europe in 12 lessons, 2016, Web.
History of the European Union 2015, Web.
Landau, EC & Beigbeder, Y 2008, From ILO standards to EU law: the case of equality between men and women at work, BRILL, Danvers, MA.
Slide 00 EU institutions n.d.
Slide 01 Supremacy and EU law n.d.
Slide 02 EU laws uni version n.d.
Slide 02 Human rights n.d.
The truth about the European Union 2014, Web.
Tony Blair speech on EU membership 2015, Web.
Wellings, B & Vines, E, ‘Populism and sovereignty: the EU act and the in-out referendum, 2010-2015’, Parliamentary Affairs.