The essence of democracy is not that the will of the majority prevails. That is the way to mob rule. It is a more subtle and complex concept. It is that the minority consents to be governed by the majority, subject to two conditions.
First, the majority power must respect the will of the minority: it consents that it should not go too far in damaging their interests. Second, the minority consents to be so governed, provided that (a) the majority exercises self-restraint and respects the views of the minority (b) there will be an opportunity to depose the current majority in due course.
Mutual consent depends on mutual trust. It is only possible in a coherent community with shared culture, history and values – a demos. This demos cannot be willed or legislated into being. There is no European demos, no shared culture and no shared basis for consent to government by another majority. True democracy is impossible.
Leaders of Romania, the Czech Republic, Slovakia and Hungary voted on 22 September 2015 against the Commission’s mandatory quota scheme for relocating migrants; Slovakia’s Prime Minister Robert Fico added that he would refuse to comply rather than accept the “diktat” of the majority. These leaders may be realizing that Qualified Majority Voting within the EU is not genuine democracy.
The case for leaving the EU transcends party politics. The original campaign against Britain’s continuing membership — Edward Heath having denied the people a say in the decision to join — was led by a broad spectrum of political figures, from Tony Benn on the left to Enoch Powell on the right. To win the forthcoming referendum will require a similarly broad coalition, embracing those whose normal political opinions and attitudes may be opposed.
Jeremy Corbyn’s election as leader of the Labour Party is significant. This is not because he apparently voted No in the 1975 referendum, nor because he may apparently be persuaded to advocate a vote to Leave this time. No, we believe there are two conclusions to draw.
One is that politics matters again, and that politics will matter more once our ‘leaders’ recover the power to act in the interests of the British people. The other is that Corbyn’s election expresses a repudiation of politics, and politicians, as we have known them in recent decades. Insofar as it was they and their like who signed us up to this in the first place, this can only be (mildly) encouraging.
The campaign to leave must not only be broadly-based, it must be anti-establishment too.
Membership of the European Union is fundamentally incompatible with British history, tradition and law. Most EU members are very different from us in these respects. Many (France, Italy, Germany etc) did not even exist in their present form until comparatively recently. Most (ditto France, Germany, Italy; also Spain, Portugal, Greece and all the former members of the USSR) have a history of rule by various empires or dictatorships (Holy Roman Empire, Napoleonic, Russian, indigenous military etc). They have very short and recent histories.
Their law is built on Roman, continental, Napoleonic principles. Ours in Britain is based on the Common Law, law of contract, property rights. It is a legal framework which we have developed, most particularly in England, over arguably 1500 years, since the Romans left and since our Anglo-Saxon forebears arrived. It is a distinct heritage, and one which has been exported with great success to the USA, the Commonwealth, the Indian subcontinent and other jurisdictions where the rule of law pertains.
Our British tradition holds that all that is not explicitly forbidden is permitted. The continental, Roman, Napoleonic tradition holds that all that is not explicitly permitted is forbidden. Hence they have to have rules and regulations to govern everything which is permitted; we have traditionally applied principles to delimit what is permissible. This fundamental difference in attitude reflects deep and ancient cultural distinctions.
On 9 September 2015, Jean-Claude Juncker, President of the European Commission, delivered his annual ‘State of the Union’ address to the European Parliament. It is tempting to mock the somewhat Ruritanian pretensions of the EU in its attempt to emulate the USA — whose President is by contrast elected on the basis of a national universal franchise. But more important are two strands of Juncker’s speech which confirm the direction of Commission thinking and the future development of the Union.
First, the primary focus is clearly on the core of eurozone members of the EU. In an implicit allusion to the ‘Five Presidents’ report, Juncker says:
“The European Parliament is and must remain the Parliament of the euro area. And the European Parliament, in its role as co-legislator, will be in charge of deciding on the new initiatives the Commission will propose in the months to come to deepen our Economic and Monetary Union.”
Second, in relation to the position of the UK, he says:
“Special Protocols define the position of the UK, for instance in relation to the euro and to Justice and Home Affairs. To be fair to the other Member States, the UK’s choices must not prevent them from further integration where they see fit.”
Once again we can see the implication of Associate Membership for non-eurozone EU nations under a new treaty, which would condemn the UK to permanent second-tier, second-class status. Cameron must not be allowed to claim this as a victory and promote Britain’s continued membership of the EU on these terms.
Competence is an interesting word. In everyday English, it means capability, the capacity to deal adequately with a subject (cf OED). In EU-speak, however, it means something rather different: the sole right and power to legislate in a particular area.
When we hear that trade is a sole competence of the European Union, or that a binding interpretation of EU law is the sole competence of the Court of Justice of the European Union, we need to understand its significance: in these areas of national and international policy, Britain (along with other ‘member states’) has ceded to the European Union sole power to pass laws which bind the actions of British citizens.
And since the sole power to initiate EU legislation rests with the European Commission — unelected, undemocratic and unaccountable — we have no right, power or opportunity to oppose it. This is insupportable.
The case for leaving the European Union has constantly to adjust to oppose a moving target. The EU establishment is continually striving to move the agenda forward. Crises such as the 2008 financial crisis and its aftermath, the Greek sovereign debt crisis and, most recently, the migration crisis are all exploited in the cause of promoting ever closer union… greater technocratic control… deeper integration… further destruction of nation states’ power and democratic accountability.
The ‘Five Presidents’ Report’ on ‘Deeper and Fairer Economic and Monetary Union’, and the Spinelli Group proposals for ‘A Fundamental Law of the European Union’ are clear in their implications. The EU will move towards a core group of members of the euro currency, with a single central bank and unified fiscal regimes; and an outer tier of ‘associate members’ — including the UK — who will remain subject to the totality of developed EU law but with limited influence on its future development. Those nations who do not eventually join the eurozone will be consigned to perpetual second-class status.
David Cameron is likely to return from his ‘renegotiations’ trumpeting such an outcome as a triumph. It will not be. A clear focus on the case for leaving the EU in principle needs to hold fast in the face of a moving target.
… that as a matter of principle the United Kingdom should leave the European Union. The EU and its predecessor organizations were intended from the start to lead to a supranational government for their members, one which transcended and supplanted national governments and which was designed to destroy the independence of nation states. The ‘European project’ is explicitly and deliberately anti-democratic, transferring power to a technocratic, unelected and unaccountable Commission in Brussels. All this is evident from the documentary record. What is less evident, but still well-documented, is that the leaders of the ‘project’, realizing that overt discussion of the intended goal would excite popular opposition, early on determined on a policy of deception. They would pretend at each step towards political union that they were simply rationalizing benign mechanisms to underpin successive commercial or practical intergovernmental relationships.
The ‘European project’ is built on contempt for the people and the peoples of Europe.
These characteristics are embedded fundamentally in the history, the culture and most importantly the binding legal treaties underpinning the EU and to which the UK is a signatory. No ‘renegotiation’ or variation of these features is possible within the legal structure of the EU. Those who argue otherwise, including our Prime Minister, are either totally ignorant of the reality or — worse — complicit in the continuing process of deceiving the British people.
Economics, trade, immigration, social and employment policy: all are important issues affected by our relationship with the EU. But the key issue is sovereignty. Only by exit from the EU can the UK retrieve the power to govern itself through a democratic and accountable representative assembly.