James Elles / Nov 2019
As the EU Institutions are taking shape to tackle the major challenges facing Europe over the next decade, the position of the UK remains unpredictable as to how the Brexit deadlock will be resolved. No-one can tell with any certainty what the election outcome will be or when the deal agreed at the European Council in October will pass through the Houses of Parliament in the months ahead.
Since 1957, the EU has developed to become an open and transparent system which is democratically accountable to more than 500 million people. Sadly, the British people have little awareness of this.
Looking back at Britain’s historic relationship with the EU, Fiction Fact and Future; the Essence of EU Democracy illustrates that after the initial referendum in 1975, those leading Britain were reluctant to consult the British people on multiple Treaty changes between 1987 and 2009, unlike in Ireland where every change was put to a vote. Instead, MPs voted on the changes, leaving people unaware where responsibilities lay. I firmly believe they should have been consulted.
Then, when the recent referendum was held, there was no effort made to explain the EU institutions to British voters. In his recent book ‘For the Record’, David Cameron confirms that he was a Eurosceptic in outlook from early on in his career, resisting moves towards political integration and even admitting after the referendum campaign that he never liked the European Parliament.
Worse, in practice, no improvements have been made in the House of Commons to take account of this major shift in decision-making from London to Brussels. To date, no MEPs sit on the House of Commons European Scrutiny Committee, in marked difference to most other EU Member States. And MEPs have not had passes to enter the House of Commons since 2004.
Looking forward, the book reviews up to date evidence on the major challenges facing European countries over the next decade to 2030. These topics include effective action to deal with Climate Change, accelerating Digital Transformation and not least the rise of China which will become the world’s largest economic power by 2030.
These global challenges will be best met by regional blocs like the US and the EU, preferably acting together wherever possible. It will be crucial for medium-sized powers to be close to these blocs should they not be members of them.
So far in the Brexit debate, there has been too little focus on this likely evolution over the next decade. The more that these issues are debated, the more the British people will come to realise that their best bet for their secure and prosperous future will be to remain in the EU, sharing sovereignty to produce the best results.
Although no one can predict what the outcome of the UK elections will be, there is one clear conclusion that can be drawn from the book. While in the past, pre internet, elites were able to take decisions affecting their peoples without keeping them in touch, today, this is no longer tenable.
The current deal negotiated by Boris Johnson will permit the UK to diverge in regulatory terms to a greater extent than the previous deal negotiated by Theresa May. The greater the divergence, the less the degree of Single Market access, diminishing frictionless trade between the UK and the EU. Furthermore, the NI backstop will create a border in the Irish Sea potentially leading to the break-up of the UK in the longer term.
Only a few weeks ago, an estimated 1 million people marched through Central London calling for a confirmatory vote on the deal. Polls taken since the 2016 referendum clearly show an age divide with regard to such a vote. Generally speaking, those under 50 years old favour this course of action, the younger they are the more likely to vote remain.
To have effective closure on this issue taking into account the interests of our country over that of political parties, it is vital that the people are given the opportunity for a confirmatory vote to decide what their future will be, in particular for a younger generation to show whether this deal is the best way to shape the future they desire.