Director's Blog

Ever closer union – neither a goal nor an aspiration, but a process



by Brendan Donnelly, Director, The Federal Trust


This article was first published on the LSE BrexitVote blog.

When the Conservative members of the European Parliament first formed in the early 1990s a joint parliamentary group with the MEPs from the European Peoples Party, there was a certain condescending expectation on the British side that their continental colleagues were in for a bracing lesson in pragmatic politics from their hard-headed British colleagues. The reality of the newly established parliamentary group could not however have been more different. British MEPs rapidly realized that their new continental colleagues conducted their business with a ruthless and effective pragmatism. If anything, it was the British wing of the newly-established parliamentary group given to ideological anguish and soul-searching. Continue reading Ever closer union – neither a goal nor an aspiration, but a process

Sovereignty – in whose hands and for what?


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?

How Future UK European Referendums Might Happen

tim oliver

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 UK needs a devolved government for London

tim oliver

by Dr Tim Oliver, Dahrendorf Fellow on Europe-North America Relations, LSE Ideas


This article was first published by Democratic Audit UK.

London is the UK’s undiscovered country and it is time we recognised it as the UK’s fifth constituent part by granting it the devolved political powers it deserves. As Tim Oliver argues, London’s size, unique population, economy, politics, identity, society, place in the UK, Europe and the world all add up to make it stand apart from any other part of the Union. A devolved government for London would more than any other constitutional change help to rebalance the UK towards a federal union. It would give the metropolis the freedom to develop as it needs and be a big step towards reforming an unsustainable and unhealthily centralised UK and English state.

Continue reading The UK needs a devolved government for London

The EU provides often-overlooked economic benefits for the UK

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

EVEL and federation

EVEL and federation

27 October 2015




By Dr Andrew Blick
Lecturer in Politics and Contemporary History, King’s College London; and Senior Research Fellow at the
Federal Trust



After some delay, the government has now implemented changes to House of Commons procedure known as ‘English Votes for English Laws’ (EVEL). Under EVEL, clauses of bills deemed by the Speaker to be ‘English’ (or ‘English and Welsh’) – including financial measures – will be subject to the consent of both MPs as a whole and MPs from English (or English and Welsh) constituencies.

Continue reading EVEL and federation

Debate about Europe must be based on fact, not myth

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

Removing regulatory burdens to make the EU more user-friendly

By Richard Seebohm, former Representative in Brussels of the Quaker Council for European Affairs

June 2015

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

Federalism’s flexibility reveals its true genius

By Zach Paikin

There is a perception among many politicians and commentators in the United Kingdom that federalism is an entirely prescriptive and rule-bound system, in which all contingencies are precisely described and defined in advance. This couldn’t be further from the truth.

An examination of the history of federalism in Canada will show us that federalism is in fact a flexible, evolving system. But perhaps even more importantly, it will demonstrate that that very flexibility allows a diverse country with a federal structure to face up to critical – sometimes even existential – strategic challenges.

Continue reading Federalism’s flexibility reveals its true genius

The only certainty is uncertainty

by Brendan Donnelly

This article first appeared on euroblog, the Blog of the European Movement:


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