The issue of sovereignty

Sovereignty is not the same as power. Sovereignty means the right to make your own decisions without a higher authority telling you what to do. It does not mean you can do whatever you like. Any sovereign individual, family, company or nation is constrained by their wealth, influence, moral authority, knowledge, international law, views of their neighbours and much else.

Defenders of more European integation deliberately confuse the two. They argue we will be more powerful if we combine our efforts with other countries. That could be true if the other countries agree with how we want to use the combined power, and if the combined power is then used well. That is the argument used by Welsh or Scottish Unionists to support their countries within the Union of the UK.

It only works where there is a strong feeling that the larger Union is a natural area of government or a country in its own right. The UK has been a largely successful Union because most of the people most of the time within it have thought that. Where people did not share that feeling, as in Ireland, it caused rows, riots and the creation of an independent Irish state.

The probem for the EU is that most people in England do not regard the EU as a natural area for government and do not wish to help create a European country. That is why many of us are alarmed by the avalanche of new legislation the EU is still planning, on top of the many rules, regulations, directives and legal requirements they have already spawned. Ministers tell us they will concede no more powers. However,any new law can widen the range of EU power. The larger the EU, the more majority voting there is the less able any given country is to govern itself in all those areas where the EU holds sway. The Foreign Secretary’s support for a wider EU diplomatic srvices is also worrying Eurosceptics, who feel now more than ever we should concentrate our diplomatic activities on furthering UK interests through UK diplomats, and saving more on excess EU bureaucracy.

This matters especially for the UK now the EU is determined to increase the amount of regulatory control it exercises over financial services and banking. The UK has the largest presence in these areas within the UK. Some in the City who used to be enthusiasts for more EU integration are now worried that the EU may legislate in ways they do not like. That is the cruel dilemma when you give away sovereignty in important areas . You may not end up more powerful because you are acting collectively. You may end up far less powerful, if the rest of the group disagree with you and will not accommodate your wishes. The

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26 Comments

  1. Posted August 1, 2010 at 8:15 am | Permalink

    This arguement is exactly right and you should follow it where it leads. The UK – or at least England – want a trade agreement , and possibly a Customs Union with some degree of harmonisation, in our dealings with Europe.

    The Maastricht, Nice, Amsterdam and Lisbon Treaties have ALL been against our national interest. They should all be repealed. It is perfectly possible to negotiate a new agreement with the EU and still be a good neighbour. If we an persuade many of the current EU Member States to join us, so much the better.

    So the question must now be put. How do you, John Redwood, ensure that such proposals are entrenched in the NEXT Conservative manifesto? Sooner or later, there has to be a fight to the finish with pro European Tory wets.

    • Posted August 1, 2010 at 1:05 pm | Permalink

      The Conservative party had enough of your 'fight to the finish' in 1992-1997. It resulted in 13 years of Labour. Hopefully the party has learned this lesson.

  2. Posted August 1, 2010 at 9:01 am | Permalink

    My biggest worry with the EU is that it is setting up undemocratic power structures that could easily me taken over by extremists.

    The current incumbents in the EU are Eurocrats who have narrow minded views on homogenising the continent (one if many possible schools if thought).

    But extremists take many forms and many lead to our ruin. Whether it's economic illiterisism or political dogma the political structures of the EU make the EU a more stable place but also open to sudden and difficult to reverse changes.

    Volatility is an interesting word. Think of it like the earths magnetic field or a very defensible castle. Very stable, but prone to sudden very difficult to reverse changes.

    So whilst the EU is currently run by undemocratic Eurocrats – and that is something I believe is not best for England – the real danger is it's strength.

  3. Posted August 1, 2010 at 9:07 am | Permalink

    JR: "They argue we will be more powerful if we combine our efforts with other countries."

    A country may exercise full cooperation with other countries, without ceding any sovereignty. The EU does not allow this.

    The EU is not about cooperation in areas of interest, it is about extending the influence of the EU.

    JR: "That is the argument used by Welsh or Scottish Unionists to support their countries within the Union of the UK."

    The Scots Nats. for example, put forward logically inconsistent arguments. 'Independence within Europe', why not simply independence? Like the Irish, they want to distance themselves from England without losing access to the financial teat.

    Britain has spend a thousand years establishing its freedom independence and sovereignty. Edward Heath, and a succession of traitors after him have given that hard won prize away.

    Heath has ensured that future claims on the sovereign integrity of the UK can now be made by whatever rump is left when the EU finally falls apart. Wars have been fought over less.

  4. Posted August 1, 2010 at 9:19 am | Permalink

    A second point. The main goal of the EU was to prevent another Adolf Hitler. The first test of the Eu is to ask of it will it achieve this?

    A form of this question is to ask if a self-interest party can dominate the EU political structures.

    The sort of questions to ask are, could we have a cross national party, could we have a single marketing campaign and in a single language, with a common "enemy". The answer is YES, an Internet TV channel in English with anti-eu intentions could enable this.

    I believe the current form and direction of the EU and it's socio-economic make up will make that more likely than it was 30 years ago. The more the EU consolidates the more this is likely.

    Most IMPORTANTLY is that the OPTIMAL situation is a close grouping of political nations without central power sharing, but close economic ties.

    • Posted August 1, 2010 at 10:13 pm | Permalink

      And you think that there isn't a chance of a Stalin in the EU ?

      NATO is what maintained peace in Europe. It's function: To keep the Russians out, the Americans in and the Germans down.

      Mr Redwood,

      Can we now see the unfolding disaster that is the Cameron administration. The worst thing about him is his stance on Afghanistan. He no longer believes in it and yet he will allow our troops to die and be maimed there for the next four years.

      That's worse than Blair. At least Blair could claim to be God deluded and believing that he was on some divine mission. Mr Cameron is allowing our troops to be sacrificed for purely political reasons.

      Over this and Europe – why is a decent man like you (and those like you) still in this Goverment ?

      Trying to influence power from within has failed.

  5. Posted August 1, 2010 at 9:27 am | Permalink

    I am a democrat, a nationalist and I loathe bureaucracy. Therefore I am a natural eurosceptic. (That reminds me, I have a septic finger is that the same?)

    Anyway, now for the bad bit. When I went to America, I felt less at home than I did in Krakow. When I go to Bangkok or Australia, I feel less at home than I do in Spain. I am, you see, European, and the Commonwealth ties are rapidly loosening and the European ties, social, political and bureaucratic, are tightening.

    It seems to be quite natural, for instance, to meet two Swedes to set up an international school here in Wisbech. Were they American or Australian, I should be much more on my guard. When I bang into people in the street, I apologise in Polish usually. I am a European.

    If only the EU were a Europe des patries again! If only!

  6. Posted August 1, 2010 at 10:07 am | Permalink

    There is a fundamental dichotomy in our relationship with the EU. The UK and the US are based on the Anglo-Saxon model. The EU pursues the Franco-German model. Is the UK a square peg in a round hole?

    The US is a "federal" union of States; I doubt its founding fathers envisaged the federal government smothering the States, as it now does. The EU, I suspect will go the same way; toward an all powerful federal government.

    BTW. If you want to play spot the Quango. Spend some time on the Treasury WGA site. http://www.hm-treasury.gov.uk/wga_guidance_index…. . Particularly http://www.hm-treasury.gov.uk/d/wga_200910_list_o

  7. Posted August 1, 2010 at 10:22 am | Permalink

    Lindsay McDonough @ 7.15am, you ask an excellent question, and the answer is possibly to set up a new cross-party grouping committed to extracting the UK from the EU. UKIP to date has been totally ineffective and its leader, Low-flying Officer Farage. has disappeared from view since the GE. I think we can rule out UKIP ever building the numbers in time to save the UK from EU oblivion.

    The great disappointment is that Dave has finally raised his colours as a loyal servant of the EU. We knew George was always there, ditto Hague and of course Ken Clarke. Dave seemed to be less convinced but has clearly been taken aside and duchessed. It follows that changing the Conservative party manifesto on the EU from within is almost impossible.

    So how could you build a quorum sufficient to roll back party policy on Europe? The Lib-Dems will be no help. I believe the answer is for an independent non-party political enity, a think-tank for example, to be commisioned to sample opinion within the Palace of Westminster. Once results had been obtained from all MPs,things could potentially be developed from there.

  8. Posted August 1, 2010 at 11:18 am | Permalink

    It was not formed to prevent another Hitler, it was based on an earlier memo by a British civil servant and built on by the same socialist who had over the years attacked G. Britain for standing in the way of a United European State. Force of arms did not work so the resorted to stealth aided by a sizeable number of British politicians. The likes of Monnet openly said that stealth was the only way, they kept losing!

  9. Posted August 1, 2010 at 11:45 am | Permalink

    Are you going to call a referendum over the EU Police Powers? It is, as you said in Parliament, John, a loss of sovereignty. The manifesto states clearly that that means a referendum must be called. Are we able to trust Cameron or not? That is now the issue.

  10. Posted August 1, 2010 at 12:18 pm | Permalink

    Creating a mega-state of Europe with a centralised government, increasingly less under the control of the People and instead falling into the hands of a self-selecting, self-serving few is most likely to produce another Adolph Hitler – it was after all Hitler's aim.

    It was and is the presence of large US forces in Europe, plus a common threat, the USSR, that has kept away an Adolph Hitler to date or war between the States.

    Often the USA is cited as the rôle model for a United States of Europe, which is perhaps apt as the USA engaged in bloody civil war within 90 years of its creation over sovereignty of the States verses central federal government. Slavery may have been the spark, but subsidiarity was the key issue.

  11. Posted August 1, 2010 at 2:45 pm | Permalink

    I agree with Lindsay McDougall above. The decision to join the EEC free trade area was, and still is IMHO, correct. Mrs Thatcher was ill-advised about the long term consequences of Maastricht, which she has admitted. All later treaties including Lisbon stemmed from this profound mistake. So please John, ask the legal experts if we could simply repeal the law acceding to Maastricht, and thereby negate the rest of the treaties enabling the cash-sucking parasite that the EU has become. Few British feel themselves to be European, so surely it's far better to revert to a situation like Switzerland or Norway than continue to have unwanted legislation forced upon us by the Gnomes Of Brussels?

  12. Posted August 1, 2010 at 3:02 pm | Permalink

    the point that most matters in this talk of ever-deeper-union is; if we band together will the influence i wield be enhanced or degraded depending on whether the collective has a convergent or a divergent opinion on the matter.

  13. Posted August 1, 2010 at 3:20 pm | Permalink

    You are, Mr Redwood, exactly right – as usual. But why oh why did we not hear this forcefully and articulately expressed from numerous sources on the back benches in the past week when our Utterly Useless Home Secretary readily acquiesced in a further Brussels-mandated dilution of sovereignty by meekly handing over police investigatory powers in this country to the EU?

    The inclination to loyalty to the Coalition on the part of you and your like-thinking colleagues is understandable, especially in view of its encouraging noises on the deficit and the economy, but on matters such as the above, the country is fast running out of time before the situation becomes irretrievable – and misguided EU-imposed financial regulation will become irresistable.

    The leadership demonstrates virtually on a weekly basis its opinion that the views of you and your colleagues – which mirror those of the country as a whole far more than do the views the metropolitan left-liberal consensus which has captured your pary – matter not one whit. It is rapidly forefeiting any right to your loyalty.

  14. Posted August 1, 2010 at 3:49 pm | Permalink

    UN runs the EU
    EU runs Europe

    who runs the UN

  15. Posted August 1, 2010 at 6:01 pm | Permalink

    I can't remember who said it, but "in order to be good and mutually-helpful neighbours, one does not need to knock-down an adjoining wall." Look at the case of Switzerland.

  16. Posted August 1, 2010 at 6:44 pm | Permalink

    Well said John. So what are YOU going to do about it? So far you have simply compromised your views to prop up a government which, while more Eurosceptic than the previous, is still a pro EU government, with no plans to push the EU out of our lives.

  17. Posted August 1, 2010 at 7:26 pm | Permalink

    John, you have perfectly stated the reasons that drove me to vote UKIP.

  18. Posted August 1, 2010 at 8:26 pm | Permalink

    It will all end in tears. The only real concern is what the crying is finally over. Get out early – avoid the Big Collapse.

  19. Posted August 1, 2010 at 9:07 pm | Permalink

    Mr Redwood, why did you vote in favour of the House of Commons motion to endorse the European External Action Service: an agency that seeks to displace our own diplomatic service in world affairs?

    Reply: You are right to query this. As all three main parties were whipped to approve this there was no hope of defeating it. Just 12 voted against. I saw it was just a "Take note " motion we could not defeat, but I should not have voted Yes as I thoroughly disagree with the idea of an EU foreign policy that the UK has to go along with.

  20. Posted August 1, 2010 at 9:49 pm | Permalink

    Do you recall the Number Ten garden 'love-in', Lindsay? David Cameron looked relieved to have the LibDems on board. He must have remembered what happened to John Major who, despite starting out with a parliamentary majority, faced considerable opposition from within the Tory party from the anti-EU wing ( Bill Cash et al). Even if the Coalition fails, it seems unlikely a minority Conservative government, would put up with another stream of rows over the EU. After all, divided parties tend to lose elections.

  21. Posted August 2, 2010 at 8:33 am | Permalink

    John,you know that the matter of the EU membership is either to be in or to be out,yet you continually say that Britain should be in. Once you concede this,then all the wriggling in the world does not advance the interests of the British people one iota.

  22. Posted August 2, 2010 at 12:00 pm | Permalink

    Politicians may be very keen on the grand project, but they are not taking the people with them, regardless of the lack of votes for UKIP. When people start losing their jobs thanks to the EU superstate project, they will be looking for someone to blame and it won't be the cushy Brussels based wonks on the receiving end, it will be our government and our police in the front line. God help this country if the English ever do rise up against their masters because the whole thing could collapse.

  23. Posted August 5, 2010 at 8:20 am | Permalink

    The view that we as the UK could survive without the backing of the EU is old hat and not feasable, we are no longer a strong country and need the support of the EU, there are pros and cons in all partnerships and the regulations are sometimes difficult but we get rewarded so we should stop living in the past and move forward as partners (not junior ones either)

  24. Posted August 10, 2010 at 12:20 am | Permalink

    I believe we could survive without the EU. We are a net cash contributor. A net importer of other EU country goods. Factories tend to move from Britain to other EU countries. Switzerland has a population 6 to 7 times less than the UK but exports more to the rest of Europe than we do, and they are not a member state.

  • About John Redwood


    John Redwood won a free place at Kent College, Canterbury, and graduated from Magdalen College Oxford. He is a Distinguished fellow of All Souls, Oxford. A businessman by background, he has set up an investment management business, was both executive and non executive chairman of a quoted industrial PLC, and chaired a manufacturing company with factories in Birmingham, Chicago, India and China. He is the MP for Wokingham, first elected in 1987.

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