With the UK’s EU referendum fast approaching, I don’t doubt that most people are sick and tired of the constant back and forth between the two sides. However the reason that this referendum is dominating the headlines is because of how important it is – for the future of the UK and the world. This decision will shape the future of international politics for centuries to come, for better or for worse. In this article I’m going to focus on one particular aspect of EU that has been mentioned but never really addressed; because one side is afraid to mention it and the other doesn’t understand it.
Imagine the scene; you’re sitting at home watching the news. A typical pro-Brexit politician is droning on about a ‘strong independent UK’ whilst a Remainer sits on the couch opposite them shaking their head in disapproval. The politician suddenly pauses, considering his next option. He looks directly at the camera and you can see the fear in his eyes: ‘But what about the risks of remaining? A European army … a, Federal Europe.’ Suddenly the lights begin to flicker, the ground begins to shake and lightning forks overhead. From the across the channel you can hear the cackling of the dark lord Juncker atop is tower of evil in Brussels.
But of course, none of that happens. Juncker isn’t an evil dark lord, and a federal Europe is not something we should be afraid of. I’m going to try and address some of some of the issues surrounding the idea of a federal Europe, which I believe have not been properly addressed in this referendum.
Firstly, the main argument against a single European state is the idea of sovereignty. Many Brexiters took up the case to leave the EU because they disagree with the idea of shared sovereignty and wish for the UK to be fully independent again. The problem with the idea of sovereignty is that it is almost completely arbitrary. The Brexiter wants a sovereign UK, the Scottish Nationalist wants a sovereign Scotland and the Federalist wants a sovereign Europe. Different people have different ideas of sovereignty and it is entirely based on your own opinions.
The concept of shared sovereignty is not new to the UK – we have been sharing sovereignty since 1707. You could even argue the case that leaving the EU would pose an even greater threat to British sovereignty as it may prompt Scotland to hold a second –and doubtless more successful- referendum. The idea of sovereignty is based on your opinions, so why is sharing sovereignty as part of a European state better than becoming an independent, sovereign English state?
Well firstly we have to consider what a European state would look like. The EU is currently the largest economy in the world, but is being held back by infighting between states. A united European state would be a world superpower to rival even the USA (though of course we should look to work together with the USA, who are our natural allies) and would certainly counter the threats from Russia and China. Europe would have the highest seat at any table, the loudest voice at any discussion. This is something that an independent English state could never achieve.
Though the UK wields considerable influence at the moment, this is not something we will be able to keep up for long; especially as emerging economies around the world begin to look for a more important role in international affairs. The British Empire died in 1997 –with the transfer of Hong Kong to China- and with it the hope that Britain could ever again be a world superpower. Our current disproportionate international status cannot continue forever, especially if we are so determined to leave international organisations, isolate ourselves and tear our country apart.
When discussing European integration, the idea of a European army is often brought up in the same tone of fear and disgust as a federal Europe. Once again, the European army is nothing for us to fear. It would be the largest army –and navy- on the planet. It would make us one of the best-protected, most secure states in the world. In a dangerous time of international upheaval this would go a long way in keeping our country safe.
But is being powerful all that important? ‘The prince who walks away from power walks away from the power to do good.’ Is a famous line from Machiavelli, and it perfectly summarises the issue. The EU was founded because the Europeans of 1957 believed in the dream of a free, democratic Europe. A dream, that even now is under threat. In Turkey, the authoritarian Erdogan is cracking down on freedom of speech, in Poland the ruling party is promoting intolerance and bigotry and even in the UK the Conservatives are promising to rewrite your human rights. A strong, sovereign EU is what we need if we want to protect our Liberal, Democratic values.
In the rest of the world, the cause of democracy has always been championed by the USA, but that state of affairs is changing. With the slow –but inevitable- decline of the US already beginning, and the possibility of a Trump presidency, we can no longer rely on the USA to protect those values around the world. If really continue to believe in the dream of democracy and freedom that founded the EU 60 years ago, then we need to take that dream into our own hands; and to be powerful enough to protect it, we need to be united.
A federal Europe would not be an evil empire, but a strong democracy; a force to protect civil liberties and freedoms around the world, as well as within our own borders. The alternative is a divided, fragmented Europe with nothing to stop authoritarians from demolishing freedom of expression and human rights. On June 23rd our country is faced with a choice. A choice to give up, or to continue the dream that our ancestors fought and died for; a dream of freedom, equality and brotherhood throughout all of Europe.