A reader, Davidaod, posted the following comment: “Europe needs to c**t off and give back as much sovereignty to member states as possible.” Aside from the colourful expletive, what I found particularly interesting was his use of the phrase “as possible”.
I write this because I think it underlines an interesting point about the EU and sovereignty, because in the EU, there is no such thing as “as possible”. A member state can have all the national sovereignty it wants. This isn’t the United States. The army (you know, that EU army the No side promised in the Single European Treaty referendum. And the Maastricht referendum. And the Amsterdam referendum. And both Nice votes. And both Lisbon votes. That army!) won’t be sent in. Countries can take as much sovereignty as they want.
The problem is that most people who demand more sovereignty get very vague when you ask them for details. For example, we could tell the EU to get stuffed and default on the banks. That would be, in the current climate, the ultimate act of national sovereignty. Yet it would force us to suddenly slash a huge chunk of public spending out of the economy as we declare ourselves free from the European bailout fund. That would be a major act of national sovereignty, closing schools and hospitals and slashing welfare because we no longer receive EU bailout money. Scrapping the Common Agricultural Policy, and telling the rest of the EU to shove their CAP rules and their CAP money would be an act of national sovereignty. We could kick other countries citizens out of Ireland, which would also be an act of sovereignty, as would welcoming back the hundreds of thousands of Irish kicked out of other countries in retaliation. National sovereignty is the right to control your own destiny, including the right to be poor because it’s all you have. I could be wrong, but I’d be surprised if, as we slashed public services, you’d see many banners at demos saying “At least we can cut our own services! Hurray for national sovereignty!”
It seems to me that there are some in Ireland who believe that national sovereignty means other countries giving us hard cash and opportunities, but pissing off if they expect us to reciprocate. It’s a very teen-going-through-puberty attitude. “Yeah, you cloth me and feed me and house me and take me on holidays and take care of me when I’m sick and put me through college but you won’t buy me an iPad so I hate you!”
National sovereignty is about taking responsibility for everything, good and bad, and in order to do that, membership of the EU, warts and all (and there are plenty of warts) is the best way of doing it.