Watching ongoing battles between pro and anti EU forces, it can be easy to forget what is actually happening in the world. The reality is that this century threatens to be dominated by China, and to a lesser extent, India and Brazil. Those opposed to European integration, and aspiring to a “return” to national sovereignty seem to miss that point. Will a Britain outside the EU have greater or less influence over China? Eurosceptics claim that they support multilateral action on a state by state basis, but on a trade basis this needs an administrative base. Take NAFTA, for example, lauded by eurosceptics as the model they aspire towards. In NAFTA, with small exceptions, US and Mexican trucks have to stop at the border and transfer to other countries’ trucks to continue the journey. That’s progress? US truckers object to Mexican trucks being allowed deliver in the US, because they can undercut US truckers because there are no, unlike the EU, common haulage safety policies to ensure a level playing field for truckers who take safety seriously.
The big wrong eurosceptics propose is that a return to national sovereignty alone is a viable option. It isn’t. With the exceptions of the United States and China, most other sovereign nations can be completely overwhelmed by events outside their borders, and telling voters that a country’s future can be decided solely from within its borders is a bare faced lie. The problem with the EU is not too much Europe, but not enough, and that is primarily caused by the fact that Europe is painfully bereft of leaders who can mobilise the entire continent.
We are faced with a choice: We can either have a United States of Europe, led by a directly elected government, and utilising our continent’s vast but uncoordinated resources, or we can picked off one-by-one by an vastly more powerful China.
Option three, going back to the 19th Century vision of the nation state, is no longer an option.