The current debate surrounding the effect of a ‘Brexit’ vote on the British economy is little more than greedy men squabbling over what price to sell their principles.
Without irresponsibly claiming that the state of the British economy is of no significance, I believe arguments that suggest British sovereignty should be traded for European charms and trinkets are a cheap betrayal of the values fundamental to a liberal way of life.
We see now, more than ever, that the greatest political tragedy is complacency. In Britain’s long and unique history of relative peace, political stability, and self-government, her people (or a significant portion of them) have grown distant and detached from her founding principles. The ability to self-govern, to elect and remove from office our representatives, to mould our political, social and economic environment according to our interests, is not one to be taken for granted, and certainly not one to which monetary value can be attached.
It is simply a matter of fact that being a member of the EU diminishes British sovereignty. The EU has de facto legal supremacy over British law in areas including commerce and industry, competition, social and labour policy, environment, agriculture, fish, transport, energy, and foreign aid. The most recent figures suggest that over half our laws originate from the EU Commission; a body composed of commissioners who are unelected and unaccountable, and who choose to flaunt this unaccountability by racking-up the most ludicrous expenses.
This Commission, amazingly, is also responsible for the enforcement of EU law. The European Parliament (housing EU citizen ‘representatives’) is a parliament in name only, as it is the only parliament ever assembled that does not have the right either to initiate or to repeal legislation. Consider that for a moment, once a law is passed, there is absolutely nothing that your elected representative in Europe (and by extension ‘you’) can do to repeal it.
Thus, voting to remain within the EU can only be interpreted as an act of putting one’s faith in its benevolence, and one’s trust in the assumption that the EU will act in the interest of UK citizens.
Two points should be made here. First, it strikes me as an absolution of responsibility to believe that another can know one’s own interests better than oneself. The belief that some expert or higher authority can know and act in the interests of the individual – better than the individual for him or herself – is the very essence of paternalism and illiberalism.
Second, whether the EU does, in fact, represent British interests, is an empirical question, and one to which the answer is clearly no. To take just a few examples: In forty-two years, the EU has failed, on our behalf, to negotiate trade deals with eight of the UK’s ten biggest trade partners; since majority voting was introduced in the Council of Ministers, the UK has voted against EU proposed legislation 72 times, and lost every time; Britain has paid more into the EU budget than she has received in forty-one out of forty-two years of membership; Britain is penalized by the Common Agricultural Policy – paying in £6 billion a year and receiving only £3 billion in return; and the Common Fisheries Policy has been particularly detrimental to the UK compared with other member-states.
For the sake of argument, let’s suppose that the EU really does have the UK’s interest at heart. If this were to be the case, those wishing to be governed by the EU would have no choice but to rely on its goodwill. However, the true merit of democracy is that it does not require the ‘ruled’ to have faith in the altruism of the ruler. In a democratic society, one is not the recipient of arbitrary laws, handed down from above, but the creator of those laws. When dissatisfied with the law, the democratic citizen has recourse to attempt to amend it. The EU citizen does not.
However, to complain that the EU is undemocratic is to have somewhat missed the point. The democratic ‘deficit’ of the EU is not a result of some failure in design; it is intrinsic to its founding ideal. Across post-War Europe, there was a widespread sense that the nation-state had failed, and that the power of states was responsible for the destruction caused by both World Wars. For many of the EU’s founding fathers, especially Jean Monnet, unrestrained democracy was associated with demagoguery and fascism. The EU’s architects prided themselves on establishing a system in which ultimate power would be vested in disinterested ‘experts’ and technocrats, immune to popular opinion.
The EU’s contempt for democracy is evident in practice. In national referenda since 1992, every member-state voting against greater integration has been made to vote again, or simply ignored. This includes: Denmark’s ‘no vote’ to accede to the Maastricht Treaty (1992); Ireland’s ‘no votes’ to accede to both the Nice Treaty (2001) and Lisbon Treaty (2008); France and the Netherland’s ‘no votes’ to accede to the EU Constitution (2005); and Greece’s vote against continued Euro bailouts in 2015.
In the run-up to this latter referendum on whether to continue with the ruinous bailout and austerity programs in Greece, the President of the European Commission, Jean-Claude Juncker, declared candidly that: ‘there can be no democratic choice against the European Treaties’. Yet, unbelievably, the very bailout program to which he was referring was in direct violation of those Treaties! The Eurocrats, in this instance as in others, have demonstrated that they consider the rule of law to be nothing more than an occasional convenience.
If the British vote to ‘remain’ in the EU, it will be the first time, in 800 years, that English law – with the consent of the people – is subject to a higher legal authority.
The political upheaval that will result from a vote to remain cannot be over-stressed. Project Europe is, and has always been, headed in one direction, toward ‘ever closer union’. In practice, this means the gradual secession of sovereignty to centralized bureaucracy, and the withering away of the nation-state. This is not scaremongering; this is the stated objective of the Brussels elite. Herman Van Rompuy – former President of the European Council – said in 2010 that ‘the time of the homogenous nation-state is over’. With similar honesty, Guy Verhofstadt – leader of the ‘ALDE’ political party in the European Parliament – stated that ‘a Europe of Nations is a relic of the past’. In other words, the next time that Britain holds an EU referendum, it may be as a ‘federal’ rather than a ‘nation’ state within – in José Manuel Barroso’s words – a greater European ‘Empire’.
It stands as one of the great ironies of history that, at a time when more political communities on earth than ever before are struggling to establish democracy, one of the world’s oldest democracies is on the verge of selling hers. The voluntary dispensation of our ability to self-govern is a betrayal of the sacrifices made by previous generations who fought to prevent that ability being taken by force. As did those who came before us, we have a duty, not just to ourselves, but to posterity – the heirs of Britain – to maintain and preserve those institutions that render us free.