EEC Debate: July 1971
BRIEF NO 34: SOVEREIGNTY
Note by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office
1. Entry into the European Communities would not of course affect
the position of the Monarchy, nor would it in itself have any effect
upon the constitutional position of the Crown in Parliament. There
are 5 other monarchs among the members and applicants. There is no
question of any of these giving up their sovereignty, nor of there
being a Community head of state or even a Community State to be head
of. The Community will be a Community of sovereign states.
2. The United Kingdom would continue to be a sovereign independent
state just as present members of the European Community are. We would
for example continue to participate in international organisations
such as the United Nations, whose membership is open to sovereign
states. By entering the Community the United Kingdom would be undertaking
certain international obligations in the fields covered by the European
Treaties. Like obligations in other Treaties which are binding upon
the United Kingdom, these obligations would affect the United Kingdom's
freedom of action, but only in the fields covered by the Treaties.
These fields are limited to certain economic and commercial affairs
and closely related matters; they do not include defence.
3. Some of the United Kindom's existing Treaties in economic and commercial
matters would be inconsistent with obligations under the European
Treaties. We therefore intend with the agreement
of the other parties concerned to secure the termination of
these agreements in so far as they conflict with our European Community
obligations. Article 234 of the Treaty of Rome takes account of this
situation. Outside the limited fields covered by the Community Treaties,
our freedom to conclude Treaties with other states would not be affected
4. While it is true that the EEC and Euratom Treaties are concluded
for an unlimited period and the ECSC Treaty for 50 years, in the last
analysis (as the White Paper makes clear) the Community system rests
on the original consent and on the continuing consent of member states
and therefore of national Governments. Nothing in the Treaties requires
the member states to change the procedures of their legislative bodies.
Parliament will continue to exercise control over the actions of their
Ministers and Ministers will be answerable to Parliament for the part
they and their officials play in the formation of Government policy.
In legislating Parliament would of course have to take account of
Community obligations and refrain from enacting legislation contrary
to these obligations, just as we already do in connection with other
5. By far the greater part of our domestic law would be unaffected.
Only certain provisions of Community law primarily regulations made
by the Council and the Commission apply directly as law in each member
6. In the Community all major decisions are taken by the Council of
Ministers, on which we should be represented. Although the European
Treaties provide for majority voting on most matters, the member states
recognise that it is not in practice possible to force another member
state to act contrary to its vital national interests. As the Prime
Minister said in the House of Commons after his meeting with President
Pompidou......"The maintenance and strengthening of the fabric
of co-operation in the Community requires that decisions should in
practice be taken by unanimous agreement when vital national interests
of any one or more members are at stake".
16 July 1971