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 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
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
By Zach Paikin
In the wake of the Scottish referendum, many in the United Kingdom are beginning to discuss a federal future for their country. Constitutionally stable federalism has been a frequent legacy of Britain’s global history, from Canada to Australia to the United States. Canadians in particular, as a country of ten provinces and two solitudes, have had to become experts in federalism, not just by choice but by necessity.
Canadians have inherited much from their British roots: a constitutional monarchy, an electoral system, parliamentary conventions, and common law, to name a few. Today, the situation is perhaps reversed. There is now the opportunity for the United Kingdom to take useful lessons Canada’s unique constitutional history. As Britons debate the future structure of their democracy, here are three thoughts about federalism that may be of relevance.
Continue reading Federalism: What the United Kingdom Can Learn from Canada
Contribution by Brendan Donnelly to the LSE project “Hacking the UK Constitution”, https://constitutionuk.com/
Federalism, what federalism?
It might be expected that the Federal Trust would welcome the willingness of politicians and commentators after the Scottish referendum to consider seriously what they describe as “federal” structures for the United Kingdom. There is however a strong possibility of entirely the “wrong sort” of federalism’s now commending itself to British policy-makers, particularly in England. Simply to label proposals as “federalist” in inspiration does not of itself guarantee either their correspondence with federalist values or their sustainability in the long term.
Continue reading Federalism, what Federalism?
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