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Anti-federalist Europeanism: a theoretical and practical impossibility?

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

14th February 2020

Criticism of the European Union in United Kingdom (UK) political discourse has often focused upon the proposition that as a project it is federal in nature. For this reason, according to such theses, membership has always been incompatible with UK constitutional traditions, and poses an unwelcome threat to the integrity of the UK as an autonomous ‘sovereign’ state. It is in its response to such assertions that the supposed pro-European movement committed what was perhaps its fundamental error. Representatives of the mainstream integrationist side of the argument allowed themselves to be imprisoned by the logic that flowed from acceptance of the premise that, from a UK perspective, the undesirability of federalism was axiomatic. Rather than challenge this presumption, the typical retort was to claim that the European Union (EU) (or its predecessors) was not federal in nature; or that any tendencies in this direction could be diluted or mitigated, and that UK membership was therefore – at least on balance – desirable.

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