Thursday, 24 January 2008

It's not about sovereignty, stupid

There's something about the whole tedious debate over whether there should be a referendum on the European reform treaty which puzzles me.

It's this: much of the opposition to Europe generally and to the reform treaty in particular centres around the idea of sovereignty and the notion that the UK is somehow losing control of its own sovereign affairs.

But this is mostly tripe. Most of those who make that argument are quite content to give up British sovereignty in other areas where it suits their own purposes, with the clearest example being defence.

If sovereignty is to mean anything at all, then surely it means that a country has the right to go to war as and when it chooses. However, because Britain is a member of NATO, that right is circumscribed, and has been since April 4, 1949.

Under the North Atlantic Treaty, if someone decides to attack, say, Lithuania, then the UK would have to go to war to defend it. That seems to me a far greater infringement of our national sovereignty than ANYTHING the EU has ever done or is ever likely to do. As it happens, I think the principles of collective security which underlie the NATO alliance are sound and the UK should continue to be a member.

But I would have far more respect for those calling for a referendum on the reform treaty or even for withdrawal from the EU if they applied the logic of their own arguments and also called for referenda on the UK's membership of the UN and NATO. But as far as I am aware, no-one is calling for referenda on those. Let's not forget that the British people have never been asked whether they wish to be part of these international organisations, despite the loss of sovereignty involved.

The idea that people wanting a referendum on the reform treaty are concerned about UK sovereignty is largely baloney. It's not about sovereignty, stupid. It's about giving the EU and the government a good kicking.

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