In the debate around EU and sovereignty, it is one of the great ironies that those who were arguing during the Scottish independence referendum debate that Scotland could retain its sovereignty even if it remained part of the United (Kingdom) are the same people now arguing that the UK cannot retain its sovereignty if it remains part of the (European) Union. They also argued that Scotland could not possibly survive economically on its own – yet believe that a UK outside the EU is perfectly viable. What is certain is that a UK vote to withdraw from Europe will see the end of the UK: Scotland’s desire to remain part of the EU far outweighs its wish to remain in the UK.
The Brexiters’ loss of sovereignty argument is similarly incoherent. Those who argue that we have ‘given away’ our sovereignty to the EU in the same breath argue that in one bound we can be free – all it takes is the repeal of the European Communities Act 1972, and the UK is no longer ruled by the Eurocrats. Well, you can’t have it both ways – either sovereignty has been given away or it has not. In fact, the UK Parliament has been and always will be sovereign. All that has happened is that the Parliament we elect has chosen, for the time being, for certain purposes, and for our greater good, to ‘share’ sovereignty with another body – also elected by us and staffed by our own bureaucrats. At any moment – today or tomorrow – Parliament could repeal the 1972 Act and sovereignty would once again rest solely in the UK Parliament. In no sense is this the total and irredeemable surrender of power some would have you believe.
I remain very firmly of the belief that we should remain within the EU, albeit an EU that has been reformed, and which
- 3.5 million British jobs are directly linked to British membership of the EU’s single market – 1 in 10 British jobs.
- The EU buys over 50% of UK exports (54% of goods, 40% of services). Over 300,000 British companies and 74% of British exporters operate in other EU markets. American and Asian EU firms build factories in Britain because it is in the single market.
- The EU negotiates trade agreements with the rest of the world. Outside the EU Britain would have to renegotiate trade deals alone. While the EU is the world’s largest market, a UK outside the EU would not be a high priority for other counties to negotiate a trade deal.
- British families enjoy lower mobile phone roaming charges, lower credit card fees, cheaper flights and proper compensation when flights are delayed or cancelled. These sorts of benefits could not be achieved by Britain alone.
- The EU has taken on multinational giants like Microsoft, Samsung and Toshiba for unfair competition. The UK would not be able to do this alone.
- 1.4 million British people live abroad in the EU. More than 14,500 UK students took part in the European Union’s Erasmus student exchange scheme in 2012-13. Driving licences issued in the UK are valid throughout the EU.
- Through commonly agreed EU standards, national governments have achieved improvements to the quality of air, rivers and beaches. Good for Britain and good for Britons holidaying or living abroad!
- The EU has helped secure peace among previously warring western European nations. It helped to consolidate democracy in Spain, Portugal, Greece and former Soviet bloc countries and helped preserve peace in the Balkans since the end of the Balkans War. With the UN it now plays a leading role in conflict prevention, peacekeeping and democracy building.
- Equal pay for men and women is enshrined in EU law, as are bans on discrimination by age, race or sexual orientation. This benefits Britain and British people who live in other EU countries.
- As 28 democracies, and as the world’s biggest market, we are strong when we work together. Britain is represented in many international organisations in joint EU delegations – giving Britain more influence than it would have alone. The EU has played a major role in climate, world trade and development. If we were not part of the EU we would have no influence over its laws but if we wanted to continue to trade with the EU we would have to implement its rules. Norway withdrew from the EU 40 years ago, but still enacts three-quarters of its legislation, with no say over the content of those laws.
- Common rules for the common market make it unnecessary to have 28 sets of national regulations.
- The European Arrest Warrant replaced long extradition procedures and enables the UK to extradite criminals wanted in other EU countries, and bring to justice criminals wanted in the UK who are hiding in other EU countries. Eurojust helps UK authorities work with other EU countries’ to tackle international organised crime such as drug smuggling, people trafficking and money laundering.
- The UK is the second largest beneficiary of EU research funds, and the British Government expects future EU research funding to constitute a vital source of income for our world-leading universities and companies.