The democratic principle at stake in the European Union struggle is not parliamentary sovereignty but the sovereignty of the people, Communist Party general secretary Robert Griffiths told the party's executive committee at the weekend.

He was responding to last week's ruling by the High Court that the British government must consult MPs and peers before triggering negotiations to leave the EU.

The rights of the Westminster parliament were asserted against the monarchy in the 17th century in order to enforce the interests of the rising capitalist class', he argued. But sovereignty has since passed to the people, as the result of mass campaigns by the working class and women to secure universal suffrage.

'And the people decided on June 23 that Britain should leave the European Union', Mr Griffiths pointed out, accusing an alliance of business people, MPs and establishment judges of seeking to sabotage the exit process by setting terms and conditions on it.

He insisted that the referendum vote reflected a popular desire for elected governments and parliaments in Britain to decide trade, tax and social policies, rather than unreformable EU treaties and unelected EU institutions.

'Membership of the Single European Market would not satisfy that popular demand', he asserted, 'because it would prevent Britain from taking the necessary steps to support strategic industries, radically reform or abolish VAT, nationalise and modernise public utilities and services or take action to stop the super-exploitation of migrant workers'.  

The CP leader also poured scorn on the notion that the backlash against the High Court ruling represented an attack on the 'independent judiciary'.

'Britain's judges are only independent of the working class, not of the ruling class and its public school system', Mr Griffiths remarked. He cited a list of judicial rulings and inquiries over the years that had hamstrung trade unions and kept innocent Irish people in prison, while 'white-washing the crimes of British imperialism and its corrupt armaments industry from Ireland to Iraq and Saudi Arabia'.