Brexit = Yes on Sovereignty
Late last week, the citizens of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland (the UK) voted to leave the European Union, a governing body comprised of 28 countries in Europe. As we examine the issues surrounding Brexit, it is useful to understand the history and the power struggles within this governing body.
Beginning in 1952 with the countries of Belgium, France, Germany, Italy, Luxembourg, and the Netherlands, the European Union sought to unite the countries across Europe for trade and other cooperative efforts. The United Kingdom, Ireland and Denmark joined in 1973, followed by Greece, Portugal and Spain in the 1980s. Austria, Finland, and Sweden became members in the 1990s, while the 2000s welcomed Bulgaria, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, Poland, Romania, Slovakia and Slovenia. Croatia’s 2013 membership has been the most recent addition.
The EU governs through three main institutions: The European Commission, the Council of the European Union, and the European Parliament. The European Commission acts as the executive branch of the EU, and is comprised of 28 Commissioners (representing each of the 28 countries). They are appointed by the European Parliament after being proposed by the European Council.
Ministers from the 28-member states comprise the Council of the European Union, while the European Parliament represents the voice of European citizens who directly elect them for five-year terms.
So far, this seems like a very cheerful, cooperative effort. Lovely countries made up of lovely people. Three branches of government composed by leaders in Europe. What could go wrong?
The answer is one word: sovereignty. The EU must make decisions that benefit all of their members — yes, all of their members. This means that the interests of the EU as a whole must be placed before the interests of individual countries. At first, this may sound like a beautiful altruistic example of cooperation among European brethren.
Yet, think about it for a moment. Can a law that benefits perhaps post-Soviet countries like Latvia, Lithuania, and Romania be appropriate for other countries who are not facing the same post-communist economic issues? What happens if a trade agreement favors five little countries but not one larger country? Who would have more votes? The five little countries would have more votes even if it meant that the larger country paid the bill. Is that fair?
Is it fair for the large country to pay for everything, or is it unfair that the small countries are, well, small? Are we discriminating against the small countries for being small, or are we exploiting the large countries for being large?
Herein lies the problem with the European Union: countries have their own problems, and countries ought to be able to decide the solutions to their own problems, because, frankly, they are better acquainted with their own problems than anyone else. Further, they have a vested interest in fixing their own problems. This is called sovereignty: the right to fix one’s own problems. Yes, the right to fix one’s own problems without having someone else try to fix it for you in a way that you already know doesn’t work.
It’s like this. Let’s say you’ve owned a house for 30 years. You know what the problems are and what you need to do to fix it. Then a governing board comprised of one representative of your neighborhood and 27 other people who live all across the country (in different climates, who have homes made of differing materials and who have differing stylistic opinions) have a meeting. They talk about how to help themselves but also how to fix your home problems. However, this governing board has never set foot in your house, lived through the leaky roof, or even knows in what area of house (the guest bedroom) your pipe busted last summer.
What would you do? You would probably stand up for yourself and let them know you are well-acquainted with your own home problems and that you don’t need their help.
Many opponents are calling the Brexit vote “bigoted” or “racist” because they falsely think that the Brexit issue is solely about immigration. It is not. Brexit is about sovereignty. Brexit is about the failure of the “global citizen” model. Brexit is about affirming the beauty of individual countries and the responsibility of that country’s governance to the welfare of her people. Love of country is patriotism, and patriotism isn’t racism.
Though the United Kingdom consists of differing nationalities living in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, all citizens are considered “British.” In other words, they are already working cooperatively to unify groups of people in an altruistic fashion.
With the combined UK votes coming in at 51.9% Leave, 48.1% Remain, this is clearly a divided issue among the entire populous. Even Scotland (38% Leave /62% Remain) has pledged to fight for her economic interests within the EU, going so far as suggesting to hold a referendum to secede from the UK.
While stocks have plummeted in response to the change, critics wonder how the British will “go on” without being part of the EU. Yet if history is any indication of the future, the Brits will go on the way they have gone on for the almost 1,000 years, which passed before their joining the European Union. They will make the right decisions for their islands. They will rule their own countries. They will carry on.