Sionaidh Douglas-Scott, European law expert

The constitutional law expert takes Agnes Frimston through the obstacle course that lies ahead as Britain negotiates Article 50 and its exit from the European Union

The World Today Updated 26 November 2020 Published 2 August 2016 5 minute READ

Agnes Frimston

Deputy Editor, The World Today

There was a lot of talk during the referendum campaign about sovereignty. What does it mean?

In this country it makes sense to talk in terms of three different types of sovereignty: popular, parliamentary, and external. Popular sovereignty is when you have people voting and expressing their wishes directly. Britain – or at least England and Wales – has never rested its constitution on the concept of popular sovereignty. We have a representative democracy based on parliamentary sovereignty. As for external sovereignty, it simply means that every state is sovereign in its relations with other states in the world. At first sight, it looks like joining the EU compromises that because you’ve given up a bit of that sovereignty to Brussels or the European Court of Justice. But the whole point of international law is that countries choose to pool sovereignty because of the advantages of doing that.

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