How many EU laws and decisions does it take before people admit we no longer are self governing? This was the central question I asked during the recent Parliamentary debate. Law by law, Directive by Directive, decision by decision, our democracy is being taken away.
Of course Parliament remains sovereign for the one single reason – it could always repeal or amend the 1972 European Communities Act. The day that option becomes impossible or too remote for anyone serious to contemplate, then we have to accept that sovereignty has passed from our islands to Brussels. An In/Out referndum promised by a party that could win a General Election keeps that idea very much alive as an option.
This same process of democratic erosion and centralisation has affected the other member states as well as the UK. Why is it only the UK that worries about it? There are a variety of reaons.
On Thursday evening I was on a panel answering questions about the EU economies and the Euro. The Moderator when asking the first question characterised it as one needing a European to answer first. She passed it to the Dutchman on the panel, saying he was European. It was as revealing as the moment as when I was asked if I had visited Europe recently by someone who thought I was too Eurosceptic. Even the most Euroenthusiast of UK citizens do not automatically see themselves as Europeans. They see Dutch, German and French people as Europeans, but not us Brits. The EEC was sold as a trade agreement, and so it remains in many British minds. It is not a warm feeeling in most British hearts.
UK history is different from the history of so many continental countries. Invasion and occupation by Italians and French was two millenia and one millenium ago. In more recent history the Uk has defended her liberties and defeated continental aggressors, be they Spanish, French or German. As a result we do not fear the large neighbours as so many EU countries do. We also think that post 1945 the main powers on the continent are peace loving, and well behaved thanks to NATO and the US powerful watch. We do not think another western European war is at all possible, with or without the EU.
The keenest members of the EU are the poorer countries. They join to get their living standards up closer to the rest. They join to benefit from subsidies and transfers to them from the richer countries. It is a transfer or subsidy union. They welcome EU laws, because they anticipate the EU law will be better and more consistent than the law codes they were used to under Russian tyranny or the rule of the Generals.
The UK has to pay many of the bills for the subsidies, so the subsidy union is not popular here. The UK has plenty of laws of its own, and knows it can always change governments and lawmakers if it does not like its domestic laws. It sees EU interference in the lawmaking process as undemocratic and annoying.
The UK is a gobally engaged island. It is a dynamic place that grasps the huge changes that the rise of Asia and the dominance of the internet are causing. It means we will always have a different view of the EU from the rest. It also means we will not join their monetary, fiscal and political union. We do need a new relationship as soon as possible.