“Britain and the EU could begin a new, and perhaps happier, relationship as sovereign allies.” James Forsyth in “The Times” today
Britain and the EU are in no way “sovereign allies” – this is a fundamental misreading of what the European Union is. The Union is an alliance of 27 sovereign states – it is in no way “sovereign” itself. It has no role other than to implement the decisions and the will of its members.
Britain has not been negotiating with a sovereign entity but with civil servants of the EU Commission. The power lies not in the Brussels bureaucracy but in the governments of member states. These governments would all have to ratify any deal.
Throughout the Brexit process – before, during and since the Referendum – Europhobes have blathered on about “Sovereignty”. Sometimes as code to cover their xenophobia, sometimes as simplistic faux-patriotism – often as flag-waving populist nationalism. The truth, of course, is that at no point did Britain’s membership of the EU impinge materially on its sovereignty.
To believe that Britain once surrendered a significant part of its self-governing freedoms by being an EU member is preposterous exceptionalism. It requires the arrogant premise that 27 different and proud indendent nations – the French, the Germans, the Italians and the rest – are somehow less concerned about their sovereignty than Britain .
The modern world is interdependent to an extraordinary degree. No nation is an island entire in itself any more. This reality has to be governed by rules and codified in formal agreements. This incidentally makes us more secure – allies whether political, economic or cultural tend not to go to war with one another. Jaw Jaw is always preferable to War War.
Terminology so loosely used by Mr Forsyth is inflammatory but then the whole sovereignty argument was and is incendiary. Many who use the word “Sovereignty” know that it can be a classic bit of binary jargon despite the fact that the concept is so obviously a nuanced one. Societies at every level accept some restraint on their freedom to act. At a national level every treaty, every alliance, every deal leads to lost or pooled sovereignty to some degree.
For Britain to be the only country in Europe not in or not closely linked with the world’s largest bloc beggars belief. Even the Swiss, traditionally fiercely neutral, have strong formal ties with the EU. If they can give up a tiny fraction of their historic sovereignty why on earth can Britain not do the same? Welcome to Little England, sovereign but the world passes us by.