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EU Codified Constitution

Volume 574: debated on Tuesday 21 January 2014

13. If he will make an assessment of the effect of a codified constitution on member states’ ability to regulate within the European Union. (902075)

European Union member states have widely differing constitutional structures. In Germany, for instance, the constitutional court has highlighted instances of where the Bundestag’s rights are close to being infringed. In the UK, European Union law takes effect only by virtue of the will of Parliament.

We are fortunate in that our constitution is unwritten, or rather written on a number of documents. Why does the existence under EU law of a written constitution protect the rights of Germans, while our unwritten constitution does not give the UK equivalent protection?

My hon. Friend is right about the importance of the German constitutional court and its written constitution, and it has sometimes warned of the limits of the EU’s role. It has insisted that questions should be referred to the German Parliament, but it has never directly overridden EU law, and we must bear that in mind about its constitutional structure. As my hon. Friend knows, and as he supported in the European Union Act 2011, we have made clear the ultimate sovereignty of Parliament in this country. That is the constitutional position, but we made it clearer in our 2011 Act.

What assessment has the Secretary of State made as to whether an independent Scotland would be able to regulate within the EU without having to negotiate to join in the first place?

A Scotland that left the United Kingdom would have to negotiate afresh its membership of the European Union. It would have to do so without some of the favourable settlements that we have achieved in the past with the European Union, such as the rebate. Not only would Scotland no longer be entitled to the rebate, but it would have to contribute to the rebate of the rest of the United Kingdom.