THE BLOG

Why Parliament Shouldn't be Given the Power to Veto Every Aspect of EU Law

21/01/2014 16:52 GMT | Updated 23/03/2014 09:59 GMT

There have been calls that Parliament should be given the power to veto every aspect of European Union law.

Calls that the House of Commons should be given power to block every and any piece of any new EU legislation.

It would, of course, follow that if the UK Government and Parliament were going to be given the power to veto every aspect of every EU law, then that power would also be given to the Governments and Parliaments of every other EU Member State.

Those of us who have been around for some time know that we have been here before.

Prior to the Single European Act every EU Member State had the ability to veto any EU legislation that they considered to be contrary to their national interest.

The consequence was that EU countries tended to veto any legislation that they considered would be against the specific trade interests of a particular of their economy.

It meant that it was impossible for Europe to benefit from its greatest potential prize - that of a large single trading market.

It was for this reason that no less a prime minister than Margaret Thatcher signed up and agreed to the Single European Act, which replaced national vetoes with a general system of qualified majority voting.

In this way Margaret Thatcher recognised that it would make it much more difficult for other EU Member States to obstruct the development of the Single Market.

Most people living in the UK see the Single Market as being the largest benefit of EU membership to Britain, and it would seem somewhat perverse, after all these years, to go back to a system of absolute national vetoes, which would almost certainly frustrate the continuing deepening and development of the Single Market.

No one disagrees that the UK's present relationship with the European Union is not working and needs to change.

Moreover, the UK - which is not in the Eurozone - needs to develop a new and different relationship with those countries that are in the Eurozone.

This is why, very sensibly, the prime minister has made it clear that he is committed to seeking a new settlement for Britain in Europe and then putting that new settlement to the British people in an 'in out' referendum by the end of 2017.

I am one of the sponsors on the face of the EU Referendum Bill introduced into the Commons by James Wharton and which passed all its Stages in the House of Commons late last year.

For reasons that I fail to understand the EU Referendum Bill appears to being opposed by Labour and Liberal MPs. However, I would be prepared to bet good money that the Labour Party at least prior to the General Election will support the Conservative Party's position on a Referendum on the European Union.

I suspect they will do so as soon as the Referendum in Scotland is resolved.

I think the simple fact is that the Labour Party can only manage to talk about one Referendum campaign at a time!

Under the new settlement the prime minister is seeking, he has made it clear that there should be more powers for National Parliaments, more accountability of the European Union to National Parliaments and greater power over EU decisions.

However, if National Parliaments throughout the European Union were simply able to pick and choose which bits of European law they would apply and which points they would not, then the European Single Market simply would not work and we would have lost one of the greatest benefits of our membership of the European Union.

The reality is that only the prime minister's plans can fix our relationship with the European Union to deliver greater powers to the UK Parliament over EU decisions. Moreover, only the prime minister and a Conservative Party are committed to giving the British people their say on our future in Europe in an 'in out' referendum.