FAQ: Brexit

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  1. Why is membership of the EU in its current form not compatible with Local Sovereignty’s core principles?
  2. Is there any real possibility of satisfactory reform of the EU?
  3. What reforms to the EU would reconcile Local Sovereignty to Britain’s continued long-term membership?
  4. Why isn’t the June 2016 referendum a clear mandate for Britain to leave the EU?

1. Why is membership of the EU in its current form not compatible with Local Sovereignty’s core principles?

The principle of subsidiarity – that decisions should be taken at the most appropriate level in order to ensure that powers are exercised as close to the citizen as possible – is central to  Local Sovereignty’s philosophy and we don’t believe it should ever be set aside.

The EU, however, treats that principle as subordinate to the ‘four freedoms’ (freedom of movement of goods, capital, services, and people). Since freedom of movement clearly has potential for undermining social cohesion we don’t believe it is reasonable for it to be treated as an absolute. more

The lack of satisfactory democratic accountability is also unacceptable to us.

2. Is there any real possibility of satisfactory reform of the EU?

We believe there is.

The Brexit vote has clearly been a major shock for the EU itself, adding to the considerable pressure for internal reform already coming from within most of its member countries. The fact that it was not willing to offer the UK the special treatment that David Cameron sought doesn’t mean it wouldn’t be willing to implement more principled reforms which would have the support of people in the other member countries.

We do recognise that the EU may prove to be as incapable of reform as its strongest critics argue. However, its existence will prevent Britain establishing satisfactory alternative relationships with the remaining member countries so, even if it is truly unreformable, it might still be wiser to stay inside it and actively work to break it apart than to leave it unilaterally.

3. What reforms to the EU would reconcile Local Sovereignty to Britain’s continued long-term membership?

Principally, reform of democratic accountabilty within the EU and a forensic review of the four freedoms:

    • Legislative powers need to be exercised by representatives who are fully accountable and subject to recall. Essentially, the reforms we see as necessary within Britain are also needed within the European Union. We believe such reforms will very likely be demanded by voters in other member countries once they see them implemented in Britain.
    • Capital, being wholly artificial, is fundamentally different to people, goods & services which all have intrinsic real-world constraints on movement. The pernicious effects of free movement of people, goods & services are in fact tied up with the free movement of capital (and cause problems within nations as well as between them). In the long term, we think monetary reform could make restrictions on the other three freedoms unnecessary (e.g. if capital flows between economic units were on a purchasing power basis) but, until satisfactory monetary reforms can be implemented, restrictions may be necessary on movement between countries which are very unequal economically. more

4. Why isn’t the June 2016 referendum a clear mandate for Britain to leave the EU?

A mandate for such a major decision ought to demonstrate either a consensus or a settled majority. In that vote, 37.5% of the electorate voted to leave, 34.5% voted to remain and 28% didn’t vote. It clearly wasn’t a consensus: it doesn’t demonstrate that the British people want to leave the EU, it demonstrates that they are divided on the issue. And a single ballot cannot be taken as evidence of a settled majority, especially when the result comes as a shock to the political establishment and much of the population.

The claim that the vote represents a mandate rests on interpreting the result as if it were a first-past-the-post election. But there are fundamental differences between referendums and ordinary elections, differences which significantly affect the way the public engages with the issue at hand. Those differences need to be taken into account. more

Additionally, it’s clear from subsequent investigations and private polls that many people’s decision to vote leave was motivated more by a general disgust with the status quo than with a particular hostility towards the European Union.

No responsible administration would try and ignore the result but anyone who genuinely respects the will of the people would take the trouble to find out what the public really wants and offer reforms which would provide it.

We believe the most important driver of the leave vote was a widespread desire for more autonomy for individuals and local communities and that, if that desire was met, the appetite for leaving the European Union would be significantly lower.

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