David Cameron, the European Union and UK Sovereignty

Posted by / 14th December 2011 / Categories: Opinion / Tags: , , / -

“We are never going to join the Euro, we are never going to give up the sort of sovereignty that these countries are having to give up.”

These were the words that U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron announced in referring to the new compromises that the other EU leaders are about to accept. This interpretation of nations’ sovereignty was a clear attempt to justify his veto of a firmer union. Unfortunately, the argument does not stand up to scrutiny, and clearly other reasons were behind his decision.

Indeed, the regionalization of the economy was doomed to failure without, at least, solid coordination of economic policies. Then again, this could be simply a formality; since the start of the crisis, we have all witnessed the daily bread that are controls of national policies by EU. The hands of our national democratic governments are already tied. In this difficult situation, the best option for their political credibility is to say that if they have them tied it is because they have agreed. Trying to face defeat with dignity, as it were. This attitude has the advantage of reinforcing the political leaders’ relationship with their electorates. As the nation’s representatives, they transmit an image of control, reassuring that the reason why the EU rules are a priority is because of the voluntary choices they are making, because it matches their national priorities. This is of course not equivalent to direct consultation with the people, but it create a useful, albeit vague, limbo of the indirect consent.

Certainly accepting the obvious limits to their power might be the wisest option. But even more certain is the truth that these limits are of paradoxical complexity that every single state has to deal with. Since the very beginning of the Westphalian world, the design of a nation mosaic where each nation-state had their own unlimited sovereignty was never wholly accurate. The influence exerted by neighbours has never let the utopian and self-sufficient nation-state enjoy real sovereignty, even if it was theoretically conceived as omnipotent. We could have asked Charles IV of Spain about this, while he was struggling to contain all kind of influences from his revolutionary neighbours in France. Being a human artifact, the Westphalian world was actually fragmenting new independent actors from regions, in which a whole collection of cultural, political, and economic traditions were shared.

Moreover, by continuing the myth of sovereignty up to this very day, the hoax is taken to extremes. In our globalised world, influences flow all over the world almost laughing at the national frontiers. Admittedly, this is a scenario that the Westphalian designers probably never thought about. Multinational companies, supranational governments, word wide social movements, consumer habits, ways life… they all defy the quixotic nation-state. These territorial entities have mostly become merely another actor in a dynamic web in which influences flow without any established hierarchy.

The United Kingdom is not an exception, however much Mr. Cameron would like to have us believe otherwise. The local sovereign in London has had little power to interfere in the constant income of immigrants that determine its demography, or the uncontrollable economic dynamics that are shaking its markets. This is particularly the case of its very own goose that lays golden eggs: the City, its financial hearty and one of the few national champion-industries that London can still boast about.

Therefore, dear Mr. Cameron, I am afraid that regardless of whether the British people like this or not, it’s been a very long time since the UK, without direct consent by its people, surrendered its sovereignty to the complexities of the globalised world. Ironically, this began with all those financial institutions that now are the main reason not to join the new Europeans deals, and whose significant financial revenues the UK fears will be threatened by this supposed infringement of sovereignty.  facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

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About the author
Paula Sánchez de la Blanca is a guest author. She specialises in international relations.

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