European Union Act 2011

The European Union Act 2011 (c. 12) was 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.

European Union Act 2011
Act of Parliament
Long titleAn 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.
Citation2011 c. 12
Introduced byWilliam Hague, Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs
David Howell, Baron Howell of Guildford, Minister of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs
Territorial extentUnited Kingdom
(for Part 2 (and section 20, and sections 21 and 22 (so far as relating to [Part 2])))
Royal assent19 July 2011
Commencement19 July 2011, 19 August 2011, 19 September 2011
Repealed31 January 2020
Other legislation
Repealed byEuropean Union (Withdrawal) Act 2018
Relates toEuropean Communities Act 1972
European Parliamentary Elections Act 2002
Status: Repealed
History of passage through Parliament
Text of statute as originally enacted
Revised text of statute as amended

The Act was repealed by the European Union (Withdrawal) Act 2018.[1]


The Bill was introduced before parliament as a reaction to the European Union (Amendment) Act 2008, which had in the United Kingdom and Gibraltar instituted the Treaty of Lisbon with no participation by the Labour Prime Minister of the day, Gordon Brown and with no referendum,[2] although one had been promised in 2005 in the Labour manifesto.[3]

The Conservative - Liberal Democrat Coalition Agreement pledged in 2010:

  • 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".[4]

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".[5]

The Act

The Act amended the European Communities Act 1972 to require that any future amendment of the Treaty on European Union or the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union made by treaty, and any use of a passerelle provision, must be approved by an Act of Parliament at least; and that a referendum must be held across the United Kingdom and Gibraltar in any of various cases (listed in section 4 of the Act) where this would enlarge EU powers or reduce safeguards such as unanimous voting.

The Act also enabled ratification of a transitional protocol relating to the number of members of the European Parliament.

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".[6] The clause, eventually enacted as section 18 of the Act provides that:

"Status of EU law dependent on continuing statutory basis
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."

With the repeal of the Act a new sovereign clause was added into the European Union (Withdrawal Agreement) Act 2020 to replace this clause.

See also


  1. "European Union (Withdrawal) Act 2018". Schedule 9, Act No. 16 of 2018. Retrieved 1 August 2018.
  2. Hansard: Volume No. 470 Part No. 34 House of Commons Debates January 21, 2008 and see Division #50.
  3. 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
  4. The Coalition: our programme for government Archived June 12, 2011, at the Wayback Machine p. 19, Her Majesty's Government, Cabinet Office, May 2010, Ref: 401238/0510
  5. Lords Hansard 25 May 2010
  6. Foreign and Commonwealth Office, "EU Bill to include Parliamentary sovereignty clause" (London, 6 October 2010)