Lincoln Book Festival

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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


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