Lincoln Book Festival

Lincoln Book Festival
2017 Festival Programme

Thursday, 26 May 2016

We are worried about sovereignty

A couple of months ago I was certain where I stood on the EU Referendum. Since then I have read the arguments, I have heard the reasons for staying or leaving. Most revealing of all, though, I have listened to people’s arguments on Lincoln High Street as I have been out leafletting. 

There is one concern that seems to swamp the others. This is about sovereignty, about having power to direct our destiny. 

I was told by one person that unelected people in Brussels make 60% of our laws. This made me scratch my head. I accept that it is over forty years since I studied European Law; it is twenty years since I was advising clients doing business in other European countries, but I had never heard this one before.

I looked at the EU Commission website and read about how proposed laws must be put before either The Council of Ministers, who represent each member state, or the directly elected European Parliament. So, in theory, OK. I then had visions of ‘Yes, Minister’ and was brought back to the reality that systems are only as good as the people who work them.

This really brings me to my first point. If we don’t like what comes out of Brussels, we have only ourselves to blame. What we need to do is to encourage our best people to engage in European politics. We need women and men of ability, energy, vision and above all stamina.

This still begs questions. Why have an EU at all? Well, at the beginning it was, I am sure, a strong desire of the part of European nations not to go to war again. In this it has been mercifully successful. 

There was then an ambition to make trade between European countries easier; that too has worked. As part of this, standards have been standardised. This might have been annoying, but it made sense. There is then employee protection which benefits all working people. The list grows and governments have been rightly worried about this growth. We said No to the Euro. This was right and many other countries should have done the same.

The EU becomes useful on those issues that are better faced together, including those that are too big to face alone, like migration. Arguably Winston Churchill’s most important act in WW2 was to bring together Allies strong enough together to defeat the Nazis; he knew we could not do it alone. National governments should do those things better done nationally and local governments those things better done locally. Wherever it is done there must be democratic control.

If, by the vote on 23 June, the Electorate allows the United Kingdom to remain in the EU, it will be incumbent on Government and Members of the European Parliament to listen to their Electorate and to be active in exercising the democratic control entrusted to them.

So where have I come to with a month to go before I vote?


Not to Exit (I won’t call it brexit because I am as passionately British as anyone); neither is it passively to vote Remain; it is to to Stay in the EU BUT to exercise democratic control and get stuck in to change those things that need changing so that the EU truly serves its peoples.

The text of this article was published in the Lincolnshire Echo on 26 May 2016


Wednesday, 18 May 2016

Sovereignty without power

I was talking to a taxi driver today about the referendum and he told me that his customers were overwhelmingly in favour of brexit, actually passionately in favour.

He said that 'the trouble with you lot is that there is no passion for remain'. What is more with 25% of voters likely not to vote, brexit could win on a 36% vote.

That got me started.

His argument was all about sovereignty, how wrong it is for 60% of our laws to be imposed by the European Commission. I explained about the democratic control in the hands of the Council of Minsters and European Parliament. This is clearly being hidden in brexit arguments.

But what of it, if England left and had sovereignty? I say England, since it would not be long before Scotland left the Union and rejoined the EU. England would be a tiny country that no one would listen to. It would not be immune from the world's problems, just powerless to do anything about them. It would have sovereignty without power.

My argument, my passion is that the United Kingdom as part of the EU would have a significant voice in a powerblock that could match that of the US, Russia and China, and in due course India and an increasingly united Africa. Together we could actually tackle the huge issues of migration, of global warming, of the abuse of power by the super rich and those others that will surely emerge: problems too big for any nation state.

This is the United Kingdom of Wellington, Nelson and Churchill, a big nation with a voice that deserves to be and is listened to.