The following article is the first of two, perhaps three, on the EU Referendum which will take place on June 23, 2016. Although almost every argument presented so far, particularly by the Remain side, is concerned with economics and jobs, the EU is first and foremost a political organisation. Walter Hallstein, the EU's first President put it this way, "..we are a political - not an economic - enterprise. The Common Market has the goal of unifying Europe politically." The first paper deals therefore, with the politics of the EU, to be followed by a paper dealing with the economics, although there will be an element of overlap in both papers.
"The sovereignty of the Scottish people is in our DNA", Alex Salmond, SNP conference March 23 2013. That is a great one-liner but is that all it really is - a one-liner? Sovereignty belongs to the Scottish people, not to Westminster or any other legislature, has been the mantra of the SNP since the party was formed. It is still quoted regularly by committed Nationalists, but is that as far as it goes for traditional Nationalists, as well as the SNP leadership? These are not idle questions. We face having to choose to either stay in the EU or come out on June 23; it is a vote some of us have longed for, for over forty years. The main issue should be sovereignty because from sovereignty, all else flows. A country which is not sovereign, controls neither its politics nor its economics but unfortunately, the EU referendum campaign is simply a re-run of the Scottish Independence referendum campaign, with threats of what will happen to the UK if it votes to leave the EU, becoming wilder and more nonsensical by the day.
While this is a UK referendum, the situation in Scotland is further complicated by the policy position adopted by the SNP, currently the party of government in the Scottish Parliament and, winner of 56 of Scotland's 59 seats in the Westminster or UK Parliament. Although the popularity of the SNP did not give it the expected overall majority in the Scottish Parliament in the recent elections, it still polled more of the popular constituency vote than the Labour and Tory parties combined. Despite that, votes for the Union of the UK were over 100,000 higher than the total vote for independence and the SNP were only two seats short of an overall majority in the Parliament. For that reason, the SNP's total commitment to membership of the EU is more important than the policy of any other Scottish party, particularly as it is riddled with contradictions which are largely ignored by many Yes supporters who are prepared to follow the party line in seeking to leave the rUK while at the same time, supporting membership of another political union, the EU. There will be many Scots who support other Scottish parties or no party, who will want to leave the EU but, I strongly believe that the size of the pro-EU vote in Scotland, as recorded in successive opinion polls, has more to do with the popularity of the SNP, as opposed to the popularity of the EU. In fact, social media has shown that many who will vote to stay in the EU, are doing so in the expectation that England will vote overwhelmingly to leave, Scotland will vote equally overwhelmingly to stay and, a second Independence Referendum will follow. Shallow as it is, this analysis is no more shallow than much of the analysis on which the SNP has depended to arrive at its current policy on the EU - "Independence in Europe" - a classic oxymoron.
If "Sovereignty of the People" genuinely matters, as the SNP and many Yes supporters claim it does, the SNP is duty bound to explain to the Scottish people why it is in their interests to surrender sovereignty to the extent that is required for membership of the EU. The party leadership contends sovereignty is not surrendered but "shared" or "pooled" but a nation can no more be a wee bit sovereign than a woman can be a wee bit pregnant. We are either sovereign or we are not and those who are in favour of membership of the EU, where they argue we would be independent, but oppose membership of the UK, where they claim we are not independent, find it difficult to explain the difference. In 2001, Kenny MacAskill in his "Euro Route to Independence" said, "Leave aside spurious nonsense about surrendering sovereignty to Frankfurt rather than London, as Scotland has no independence to sell" (my italics). He went on, "The inclusivity and opportunities of Europe and the euro, can overshadow the exclusivity and isolation of independence" Warming to his task of selling the 'benefits' of the euro, he went on, "..the economic arguments are substantial and the political case overwhelming", offering Scotland "an opportunity to actively and positively sell independence within Europe". That one of the leaders of a party which is supposed to have "independence" as its raison d'etre and "sovereignty in its DNA", could make such a ludicrous claim unchallenged by the party members, said a great deal about the SNP's concept of independence.
We expect our governments to have not only an understanding of how the economic system works, but also an ability to anticipate the potential hazards. At the very least, we expect them to have advisers with those abilities, both of which were obviously lacking in Mr MacAskill's case. Did anything change in the economic thinking of the SNP leadership after the financial crisis of 2008? One major change was the decision to keep the pound sterling as the currency of an "independent" Scotland, rather than the euro, and to have the Bank of England as the "lender of last resort" rather than the European Central Bank. Unfortunately this was announced without first seeking the prior agreement of the UK government, leading to the utter shambles of the currency policy in the Independence Referendum. At the time, there was little indication that the SNP leadership had any greater understanding of either the euro or any kind of monetary union. On December 14, 2011, Alex Salmond lambasted David Cameron for refusing to sign up to the agreement arrived at by the other members of the EU, with the exception of Hungary, which called for austerity and fiscal discipline in order to "solve" the currency crisis. Salmond called Cameron's refusal, "irresponsible posturing that will damage Scotland's fishing industry and cost jobs". That Cameron's refusal could damage Scotland's fishing industry any more than the EU had already done, was risible enough, but Salmond was arguing in favour of a treaty which called for central control of member states' budgets. So much for "Independence in Europe". Alyn Smith, SNP MEP went even further claiming, "This deal tonight has been good news for the eurozone, good news for the EU and it is appalling news for the UK. The eurozone is getting its act together" Asked by BBC Scotland if the SNP was still in favour of joining the euro, Smith claimed, "Give it six months and the UK will be sinking a lot faster than the eurozone". How much more wrong could he have been?
It would seem that the current SNP leadership's notion of sovereignty differs quite radically from the following. Sovereignty is not simply an abstract concept, it has practical applications. A claim to sovereignty is a claim by some representative authority in the name of "the people" to exercise a monopoly of law-making and law-enforcement within a designated territory. In an increasingly interdependent world, sovereign states have accepted specific treaty limitations on their law-making rights. But the EU goes further by requiring member states to cede a general right of law-making on a permanent basis, to EU institutions. Sovereignty is a legal as well as a philosophical way of describing the right of a people to govern itself, to determine its own priorities within constraints imposed by its external environment. Increased interdependence may change the balance of advantage and disadvantage in any "self-determined" act, but it cannot make the principle of self-determination or self-government superfluous. At ANY level of integration or interdependence, a community of people must ask itself how important it is to retain the right to make its own choices between the options with which they are faced. Is there ANY Nationalist or Yes supporter in the Independence Referendum, in light of the brutal fashion in which Eire and Greece in particular, were treated by the EU, can honestly believe that what was on display was an example of "shared" or "pooled" sovereignty?
In light of the Greek tragedy, the latest definition of sovereignty by Alex Salmond, when he addressed the European Policy Centre in Brussels on Europe Day May 9th 2016, is totally meaningless. He said, "A individual country's sovereignty comes from influence, not force, from soft, not hard power, from enlightened self-interest, not self-interest alone." Mr Salmond's understanding of the concept would seem to be back to front. Without sovereignty, without the right to make laws, to show by example how their system is better than that of others, how can a country exert influence? When countries' own legal systems can be superseded by a supranational institution, when trade, agriculture, fishing, mobility of people, to name only a few functions of government, are all outwith the control of a country's government, where is the opportunity to influence? Since Qualified Majority Voting was introduced, the UK - population 60+ million, 5th largest economy in the world -has tried to stop EU legislation 70 times and been DEFEATED 70 times. Some influence! Mr Salmond also cited the SNP Government's new "baby box", modelled on Finland's "maternity package", as an example of how, through the EU, member states can learn from each other. He somehow missed the irony of the fact that Finland had had the "maternity package" for over 80 years, long before the EU existed and we could have copied it at any time during that period.
All governments lie and the basis on which Heath's Tory government sold the Common Market to the British people was very soon recognised to be a massive con. The "Founding Fathers" were never in any doubt about the long term aim of "ever closer political union" and each new Treaty since the Treaty of Rome, has increased the centralisation of the EU, together with increased surrender of political and economic control (sovereignty) of the member states. This has always been denied of course; even the statements made by "Remain" supporters in the current campaign, insist sovereignty is merely "shared" while some of the most hysterical of them insist there is no such thing as sovereignty in the modern interdependent world, as we will soon learn as the "EU punishes the UK if it chooses to leave." Scottish Nationalists have always complained about the "democratic deficit" in the UK, as Scotland now has only 59 Westminster seats out of a total of 650 and Scots frequently are governed by a party they did not elect. Neither the SNP nor many of its supporters, have any problem with Scots having 6 seats (13 possibly if Scotland becomes a member in its own right) out of total of 751, in a European Parliament with far fewer powers than Westminster. In 1999 Scotland had 8 MEPs, reduced to 7 in 2004 and further reduced to 6 in 2009.
It is necessary to examine the bureaucratic structure of the EU, in order to determine whether or not it satisfies the basic tenets of democracy. With a total of only 6 (perhaps 13) MEPs, is it possible to serve Scotland's interests? Even if we had our own Commissioner, his or her first loyalty would be to the EU as a whole, not Scotland. The Council of Ministers would see an independent Scotland represented by its own Government Ministers but, as there are no European-wide political parties for which to vote in the hope of furthering particular values or interests, "horse-trading" and "deals" are the order of the day. Does even the most fervent EU supporter really believe that 5 million Scots can possibly be an equal partner of over 80 million Germans, whatever the theory says?
"The Impact of EU Membership on Scotland" (Spice Report 30 October 2015)
One of the most often heard complaints from the British electorate, is they did not sign up to the EU when they agreed to join the Common Market. That is certainly true but if they had questioned their political leaders a lot more closely, or at least, listened more closely to the arguments put forward by those politicians like Peter Shore, Norman Buchan and many others who opposed the Common Market, they would have known what to expect. After WWII, historians were wont to point out that if Europe's political leaders had read Hitler's Mein Kampf, they would have been better prepared for what was to come. Similarly, those who complain they didn't know what they were signing up to when they agreed to the Common Market, would have been left in no doubt, had they taken the trouble to read "The Treaty of Rome". Even so, many who did read it, did not seem to understand what "ever closer political union" actually meant.
The Treaty of Rome 1957 set up the European Economic Community or Common Market, the titles suggesting it was a trading agreement between Member States, with little or no political content or ambition. As much of the early work included the abolition of all tariffs on trade between the Member States and a Common External Tariff placed on goods coming from any country outwith the Common Market, it is easy to see why people were misled. The details of the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) were discussed in 1957 but it was not until 1962 that CAP came into effect and the 1970s before the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) was adopted. The Single European Act (SEA), said to be the largest single surrender of national sovereignty of the Member States, the first major treaty change since the Treaty of Rome, was signed in 1986 and set the objective of creating the Single Market by 1992. The SEA introduced a number of reforms which laid the ground work for the further integration of the EU, particularly in the political field. It removed the veto on a number of issues, increased the power of the European Parliament, and the European Council, extended Qualified Majority Voting to new areas, set the date for the Single Market at 1993, which included the free movement of goods, capital, labour and services, introduced 272 unitary market-mechanisms, as well as setting standards for workers health and safety. The Danish Parliament rejected ratification of the SEA at the first time of asking, because it extended the power of the European Parliament, but a Referendum on the measure was passed by the Danish people, as was the Referendum in Eire, the only other country in the EEC to hold one.
The Treaty of Maastricht 1992 set up the euro but as this will be discussed in detail in the next blog on the economics of the EU, the conditions for membership, the effects of the currency and the economic fallout, will all be discussed then. The political consequences of the Treaty are substantial as it created the European Union and European Economic and Monetary Union (EMU) gave the EU unprecedented control of the economies of the members of the eurozone. The creation of the Exchange Rate Mechanism (ERM), of which members had to have been a member for two years before entry to the euro, created more stress on the currencies of the members than some of them could handle. The UK was forced out in September 1992 and the entire system was abandoned 18 months later. As Fig 2 shows, Maastricht was followed by the Treaty of Amsterdam in 1997, which incorporated the Schengen Agreement into European Union Law, the Nice Treaty in 2000 and the Lisbon Treaty in 2009, all of which increased the control of the EU over the affairs of the Member States. The details of Schengen and the recent consequences of the migrant pressure, will be covered in a later piece.
The "acquis communautaire" is the accumulated body of EU law and obligations since 1958 to the present day. It is comprised of all the EU's Treaties and laws (directions, regulations, decisions) declarations and resolutions, international agreements and judgements of the Court of Justice. It also includes actions which EU Governments have taken together in areas of freedom, security and justice and under the Common Foreign and Security Policy. New EU Member States must accept ALL existing acquis and the Court of Justice has ruled that EU acquis take precedence over national law if there is any conflict. There are an estimated 80,000 items which are current. But Remain continue to argue there is no loss of sovereignty for Member States. Despite the predominance of economic arguments in favour of remaining in the EU, there can be few members of the public in the UK who fail to recognise that the EU is not predominantly an economic club. The original aims of the Founding Fathers were political and while economics has played an important role, the European Project is still political. Anyone who still has doubts about the political undercurrents and who wonders why the Americans have taken such an interest, from the President to a rather lengthy line of past Secretaries of State, may like to ponder on the following.
The EU and its supporters love to take credit for every forward movement of European society from keeping the peace in Europe since 1945 to ensuring we all breath "good air". The claim to have kept the peace since 1945 is one of the most bizarre. Each of the original Six, Federal Republic of Germany (FRG), France, Italy, Netherlands, Belgium and Luxembourg had all been defeated and occupied during WWII. By 1945, Germany was a country divided between the victorious Allies, Italy and France were in no position to defend anything or threaten anyone. Who were the Benelux countries likely to attack? Germany remained a divided country until October 1990 and those Members which had been part of the Soviet Empire until the fall of Communism in 1989-90, had actually taken part in the subjugation of Hungary and Czechoslovakia. So where was the EEC/EU when the Soviet tanks rolled into East Berlin in 1953 or when the Soviet Bloc crushed the Hungarian Revolution in 1956 and the Prague Spring in 1968? There is an argument which suggests that the unilateral German recognition of the Croatian Republic, despite the UK's request there should be no unilateral recognition and that the UN should intervene, exacerbated the situation in the Balkan War. Where was the EU when the massacre took place at Srebrenica in July 1995, where over 8,000 Muslim men and boys were killed, "the worst human atrocity since 1945"? Far from having kept the peace in Europe since 1945, the EEC/EU has not even kept the peace within its own current boundaries. Any reasonable person will note that the interaction of NATO and the Warsaw Pact were responsible for peace in Europe, not the EU.
Given the political and social history of the Member States, it is heart warming to see how far society in the EU has progressed. There is no doubt that many of the reforms which have taken place have benefited at least some of the people of Europe. What many of the UK supporters of the EU seem to forget, is that as a bloc, the EU benefits the strongest and punishes the weakest. There is a tendency in the UK for those on "the left" to see the EU as a bastion against the "political right", by which many of them simply mean "The Tories". It may surprise them to know that out of the 28 current EU members, 10 have a history of Fascist or Right Wing government, 11 spent many years as part of the Soviet Bloc and only 7 have an unbroken history of democracy. The vast majority of the population of this much vaunted "market of 500 million" lived under the control of either a Nazi/Fascist or Communist system of government for much longer than they have done under a democratic one. A centralised form of government therefore is much more familiar to them than it is to the people of the UK and unfortunately, in times of crisis, some form of extremism is rarely far from the surface. We have long been familiar with the National Front in France where it now takes 25% of the vote and is considered "mainstream" rather than "extreme" in the French political system.
The current crisis of migration however, has led to a considerable rise in parties of the "Right" from Scandinavia to the Mediterranean. In the various state and regional elections which have taken place over the past year, in the Member States of the EU, the Far Right parties all made substantial gains. In Germany Chancellor Merkel lost two of the three states where elections were held, to the AfD which is now the third most popular party in Germany. In Denmark, the Danish People' Party (DPD) took 21% of the vote and is now Denmark's second largest party, while in Italy, the Lega Nord - on a platform of being anti-Muslim, anti-Gypsies and anti-immigrant took 20% of the vote in Tuscany, the historical home of Italy's "Left". In Poland, the Law and Justice Party is in government, Slovakia in March, 23% of first time voters supported the neo-Nazi L'SNS, in Hungary the neo-Fascist Jobbik party, which advocates "ethnic purity", took 20% of the vote and is now the third largest party in the country while in Greece, the neo-fascist Golden Dawn took 7% of the vote which meant over 500,000 people. In Sweden, the openly neo-Nazi Sweden Democrats took 13% of the vote in March making it the third largest party in parliament. The latest polls give its support at 25%. In the EU Parliament France's National Front, Dutch Party of Freedom, Italy's Lega Nord and Austria's Freedom Party won enough seats between them to form a "Far Right" voting bloc, which gives them access to EU funds, which is likely to allow them to campaign even harder for as long as the migrant crisis lasts. However bad the "left" in Scotland think the Tories are - and the visceral hatred that some feel, pollutes social media on a daily basis - the reality is that they come no where near the neo-Fascist Right in Europe. If support for the EU is because it is "not the UK" or to get away from the hated Tories, what is already there in the EU could turn out to be a lot worse.
Finally, President Obama's intervention in the EU referendum debate, was simply a continuation of what has been a strand of American foreign policy since the end of WWII, a United States of Europe. Declassified American documents show that the CIA ran a campaign in the 1950s and 1960s to build momentum for a United Europe and it funded and directed the European federalist movement. One of the documents, dated July 1950 gives instructions to campaign for a European Parliament, signed by General William J Donovan, head of American wartime OSS, precursor of the CIA. An American Committee for a United Europe (ACUE) was formed in 1948 with Donovan as its Chairman, and Allen Dulles as Vice-Chairman. Dulles just happened to be the CIA's first Director. Documents further show ACUE financed the European Movement, probably the most important and active federalist lobbying group since the end of WWII, providing 53% of its funds in 1958. A memo dated 11th June 1965, advises the Vice-Chairman of the European Economic Community (EEC), Robert Marjolin to pursue monetary union by stealth. It recommends suppressing debate until the point at which the "adoption of such proposals would become virtually inescapable." No one can say that things have not gone to plan, particularly the suppressing debate part. Now, what is it about TTIP that angers us most?
I would suggest that before Scots finally put their cross on the ballot paper, they should pause and ask themselves the following:-
1) Is the record of the SNP on the EU and currency such, that you are prepared to follow their line blindly?
2) Do you really believe the political structure of the EU (economics is separate) allows member states to retain sovereignty?
3) Do you really believe that Qualified Majority Voting will allow a Nation of 5 million people to carry the same weight as countries with 50 million, 60 million, 80 million people?
4) To what problem is the EU the answer?