by Monica Threlfall (writing in a personal capacity), Reader in European Politics, London Metropolitan University
The Leave people are always saying they want “our sovereignty back“. But for what purpose? What is this sovereignty and for whom is it supposed to work? Not for ordinary people. Sovereignty is a concept that power-lovers cling to when they fantasize they might get more power thereby. What is the point of ‘sovereignty’ if a post-exit sovereign government abolishes the obligation not to discriminate against women or minorities (as a right-wing US state is now trying to do), removes most health and safety precautions at work, or allows companies to sack workers when they take over firms or privatised services? More workplace accidents and deaths are the cost of sovereignty in the wrong hands. Today EU member states are enjoying a steady decline in morbidity at work ever since joint laws were adopted, and the UK had to adhere to them too. Britain was performing well until Conservative-led governments started to find corners to cut despite the laws. Yet the Leave campaign is full of people who seethe over such protections – even Cameron launched his referendum vowing to get an opt-out from the Working Time Directive so that employers could lengthen working hours, cut holidays, paternal and parental leave, and more. But the member states said no to him over that, so we remain protected while we remain in the EU. Continue reading Sovereignty – in whose hands and for what?
by Dr Tim Oliver, Dahrendorf Fellow on Europe-North America Relations, LSE Ideas
Further referendums on Britain’s European question could happen whatever the result of June’s vote. In a recent report for the Federal Trust, Why the EU Referendum Will Not be the End of the Story, Dr Tim Oliver set out how the forthcoming referendum will not settle the European question and mapped out the different ways in which future referendums might come to pass.
Continue reading How Future UK European Referendums Might Happen
The EU provides often-overlooked economic benefits for the UK
By Viara Bojkova, Head of Geo-Economics Programme & Senior Research Fellow at the Global Policy Institute.
The big campaigns for the UK to stay in or leave the EU paint pictures of alternative futures with a large brush. ‘We must have the enormous market and the regulatory protection afforded by a bloc of 500m affluent citizens’. Or else, ‘The virile UK must not be hampered by a hapless band of failing bureaucrats, but should find its fortunes among the thrusting emerging markets’. Our mainstream, Eurosceptic press love such caricatures but overlooks niche areas that have important economic significance for the UK. Three of these are: UK Universities and their R&D activities; the involvement of the UK space industry with the European Space Agency and pan-European companies, and the dynamic emerging market represented by the east European countries of the EU.
Continue reading The EU provides often-overlooked economic benefits for the UK
by Baroness Quin, House of Lords; Council Member of the Federal Trust
4th August 2015
This article first appeared on the European Movement website.
One of the biggest myths about the circumstances in which Britain joined the EEC (as it was then) in 1972 was that what we were being offered was simply a trading arrangement which did not involve pooling or loss of sovereignty. Those propagating this myth therefore claim repeatedly that the British people were sold a dishonest prospectus about what European membership involved.
Continue reading Debate about Europe must be based on fact, not myth
Removing regulatory burdens to make the EU more user-friendly
By Richard Seebohm, former Representative in Brussels of the Quaker Council for European Affairs
As Samuel Johnson once said, patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel. I wonder if the term sovereignty is not tarred with the same brush. The debate on EU membership is conducted at times on the broad concept that it is wrong for us to let foreigners tell us what to do. What could or should matter rather more to us ‘hard working people’ is the outcome rather than the power – exactly what the foreigners are telling us to do.
Continue reading Removing regulatory burdens to make the EU more user-friendly
by Brendan Donnelly
This article first appeared on euroblog, the Blog of the European Movement: http://euromove.blogactiv.eu/
During the referendum on voting reform in 2011, it was sometimes claimed by advocates of the present British electoral system, misleadingly known as “first past the post,” that it tended to produce definite outcomes, with clear Parliamentary majorities for the winning party. This claim may well have been true in the days when the Conservative and Labour Parties between them accounted for three quarters or more of the total votes cast. The growing fragmentation of British political allegiances has now however turned our electoral system into a statistical lottery, which will be painfully demonstrated in the General Election. No party is likely to have a majority, and the overall result will be disfigured by a range of anomalies. The Liberal Democrats will almost certainly obtain many more seats than will the Greens or UKIP, although they may well receive fewer votes nationally than each of these other parties, perhaps significantly fewer in the case of UKIP. Although the SNP will receive a substantially smaller share of the national vote than either the Greens, the Liberal Democrats or UKIP, it may well end up with as many seats in Parliament as those three parties combined. All observers of British elections know that for any given percentage of the national vote accruing to Labour or the Conservatives, Labour will obtain more seats from that percentage than will the Conservatives. If by any chance Labour or the Conservatives did achieve an absolute majority, it would be with the support of just over one third of those voting.
Continue reading The only certainty is uncertainty
A Personal View from Brendan Donnelly
It is sometimes said that David Cameron regards Tony Blair as his political model. The European policies of the two Prime Ministers may appear superficially very different. Mr. Blair presented himself as fundamentally favourable to the European Union, and Mr. Cameron is at best unenthusiastically and conditionally acquiescent in continued British membership of the Union. But the underlying similarities of their approach to the Union, both in public presentation and in long term outcomes are undeniable. Both have framed their European policies almost exclusively in terms of a tactically convenient “triangulation” between two rejected extremes of European policy. In both cases this contentless “triangulation” led to an inevitably unstable European policy, tending remorselessly towards greater British hostility towards the European Union.
Continue reading Blair and Cameron: Two Peas in a European Pod
Review by Brendan Donnelly
Much of this short book by Professor Jan Zielonka of Oxford University is rightly devoted to the euro. It is on the success or failure of the single European currency that the answer to the question of the book’s title “Is the EU doomed?” will essentially depend. Zielonka’s belief that the EU may well be doomed is summarized in the words “interdependence no longer generates integration but instead prompts disintegration.” On this analysis, the single European currency will prove to have been an error of historic proportions, achieving precisely the opposite of what its founders intended.
Continue reading Book Review: “Is the EU Doomed?” by Jan Zielonka
by Brendan Donnelly
A number of lessons can be learned from the diplomatic reverse suffered by the British government in its attempts to prevent Mr. Juncker from becoming President of the European Commission.
1. British governments are prone grossly to exaggerate the extent of support they enjoy for their political attitudes and choices within the European Union. In this respect, Mr. Cameron’s attempt to thwart Mr. Juncker’s candidature was entirely similar to his unsuccessful attempt to prevent the adoption of the Fiscal Compact in 2011. British diplomats and politicians are altogether too willing to interpret vague expressions of goodwill from their European colleagues as firm endorsement of idiosyncratic British views about the Union and its future. This over-interpretation of what is often little more than conventional politeness leads British officials and politicians to misperception of the real alignment of forces within the Union and unseemly petulance toward their colleagues when this misperception is later revealed in its full futility.
Continue reading Learning Through Suffering: European Lessons for the British Government
by Brendan Donnelly
If Jean-Claude Juncker becomes the next President of the European Commission, it will mark an important development in the democratic life of the European Union. Millions of voters in the recent European Elections will see their favoured candidate take on one of the most important posts in the Union. Millions of other voters who preferred unsuccessful candidates such as Mr. Schulz and Mr. Verhofstadt will be aware that they have participated in a transparent and democratic election, in which their views have not prevailed on this occasion, but may well do so at the next European Elections. It is a strange paradox that precisely in this country, where criticism of the European Union’s supposed democratic inadequacies is widespread, politicians and commentators have been so reluctant to recognize this qualitative change for the democratic betterment of the Union. It has long been a reasonable complaint about the European Elections that the electors did not know for what they were voting. The linking of the European Elections of 2014 to the Presidency of the Commission was a powerful response to this criticism.
Continue reading Three Cheers for European Democracy