What now is our “Path forward” to rejoin the European Union in the future?

Following today’s debate on our European position and deciding as I had hoped that we would move away from an undemocratic “revoke line” which did us as a party no good, and also stepped away from an immediate “hostage to fortune” rejoin line which would also bury us deep into oblivion, and yet we agreed to the strategic and wise move to hold back, listen to the voters not to our hearts and steadily rebuild our support on the matters of today – Covid being the most important to all our lives with a long term commitment to be a Member of the European Union in the future.

However, as a party we now have to build a message which will in time change hearts and minds on the value of our European membership. That means, emphasising from January onwards when we will have according to the withdrawal treaty properly brexited and on January 1st 2021 when we have to interlink the things we have lost to Brexit and gradually bring those issues to people’s attention.

Unfortunately, the public at large were never given the benefits of the European Union- over 40 years we became complacent and with the onslaught of tabloids plastering lies and deceits into people’s living rooms, the referendum of 2016 was the nailing point of our laziness.

The only way to recover this position will begin again through public assent, thereby by another referendum or a general election (but I wouldn’t count on that at the moment. So, what are we going to do? As the world is struggling to come to terms with Covid, we’ve got to highlight ways to cooperate, work with our European friends. When we start lacking in medicines, or lorry parks in Kent disturbing local lives then we have to be prepared to link every local issue with an international flavour.

I remember back in late 2000s and early 2010’s when I was told by my local party officers, please don’t put European articles in your focus, I was told, those issues don’t interest our local voters- well I’m afraid we’ve got to change that and over time link all those local issues with a European and global dimension to educate the value that we’re losing by not being part of the largest group of nations, the European Union.

At the same time we also must make new connections, and this is where I appeal to those members who aren’t part of both European and International (AO) Associated Organisations – Liberal Democrat European Group and Liberal International (British Group) for starters – we will need more bodies from across local parties to bring to life that local messaging. It can’t all be done by our MPs, we need local party executives to have someone who champions those issues which link together the local concern and the European connection, twinning of cities and towns in Europe, knowing your local European populations better and highlighting their concerns as well as linking with sister parties at ALDE and Liberal International levels more frequently to maintain those connections.

There’s a lot for us to do in the coming years and we need to prepare the ground (not banging on about something that has sadly happened) and isn’t going to change! But to scrutinise every fault, mistake, cock-up this government makes, so in time we have a case to take the British public to show why we would be better off back in the European Union, and that is going to take years not months to do this!!I

* Adrian Hyyrylainen-Trett is the Liberal Democrat Parliamentary Candidate for Ipswich and Chair of Liberal International British Group (LIBG).

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47 Comments

  • Paul Barker 28th Sep '20 - 6:08pm

    Yes its going to be a long haul, a Decade at least before we could think about re-applying.

    We need to build a measure of Cross-Party Unity on The EU, with minorities at least in all the major Parties backing an attempt to Rejoin.
    Its very hard to imagine Tory MPs backing Membership from where we are now but The Conservatives are in for a severe Electoral beating over the next Year.

  • Richard Easter 28th Sep '20 - 6:28pm

    As said before – but no reply – good luck convincing most Remainers to join the euro. Let alone anyone who voted Leave…

    The euro is exceptionally unpopular in the UK, whether that be for legitimate economic reasons, bombastic nationalism or simply tradition. The last poll in February 2020 had 64% opposed, 18% unsure and only 11% in favour. Previous polling has shown up to 85% opposed to the euro.

    Arguing for EFTA is the only practical option. You can carry some Leavers over to backing EFTA. You will struggle convincing many Remainers once the euro comes up.

  • Peter Martin 28th Sep '20 - 6:55pm

    The short answer to the question posed in the OP is that there isn’t any obvious one.

    For one thing, the EU has to make the transition to the United States of Europe, or Europa, or whatever they want to call it, to survive. They won’t want the UK holding back that process. So they won’t want us back. It will be difficult enough as it is. There’s a good chance that there will be such disagreement over large and unrepayable debts that the eurozone will break up and take the EU down with it. That was always a possibility even before the Covid otbreak.

    For another, the UK electorate won’t want to get on board the train, which is likely to break down, for that potential journey. Especially as there will be the need to adopt the euro and Schengen.

    So, as Richard Easter suggests, the best you can hope for is EFTA membership. But even that isn’t going to be easy. Your best course of action is to keep quiet about the EU for the next couple of years and see how well it goes for them.

  • Paul Reynolds 28th Sep '20 - 7:13pm

    Thank you Adrian. Things will change during 2021. There will be a series of crises. I am thinking of the Joni Mitchel song Yellow Taxi ‘You don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone’. As a party we must be prepared for what is to come.

  • Whilst not being opposed to a re-application in 10 years we would still need to win a second referendum. Neither do we know where the EU will be in ten years time and their attitude to us. Still Paul Barkers final comment does make one dream and hope.

  • @Richard Easter – your points merely show how the Brexiter narrative was and is allowed to go unchallenged by the supposed pro-EU parties (including the LDs). The reality is that it is Sterling that has consistently lost value against the Euro since it was launched, not the other way around.

  • @Peter Martin – Your comments are just more Brexiter nonsense. There is no mention of any commitment to create a “United States of Europe” anywhere in the EU Treaties, nor has any member state ever adopted such a policy at domestic level, much less formally proposed it at EU level for discussion.

    Therefore it is not a case that “the EU has to make the transition to the United States of Europe” as you claim.

    Had the other member states the slightest inclination to make such a transition, they could have initiated formal negotiations on doing so at any time since the Brexit referendum result and there wouldn’t have been anything our government could have done about it (since all the other member states would have needed to do was wait until immediate after we left and they could have signed off on the agreement arising from such negotiations).

  • Democrat Liberal 28th Sep '20 - 9:14pm

    Revoke was no more “undemocratic” than any enactment of a manifesto promise of a government with a Parliamentary majority is.

    “There’s a lot for us to do in the coming years and we need to prepare the ground (not banging on about something that has sadly happened) and isn’t going to change! But to scrutinise every fault, mistake, cock-up this government makes”

    When we scrutinise the government, the public will, reasonably, ask us what we’d do differently. At a minimum, according to the Conference motion, we’d seek single market “alignment” (aka membership) and a customs union. That alone will be portrayed and viewed by many on the Leave side as us “banging on”, trying to re-run the referendum, not getting behind Brexit/Britain, attempting to sabotage the Brexit we never wanted etc.
    We’ll still be “Remoaners” in their eyes, regardless of the Conference motion.

    With that in mind, why are making the futile attempt at trying to appease these people by formally kicking Rejoin into the long grass instead of accepting the reality that we’re damned if we do, damned if we don’t with the voters the motion was written with in mind, and get straight to work on the campaign to return the UK to its “rightful place at the heart of the EU”? Let’s have the substantial discussions now about whether we as a party would accept the EU insisting on us adopting the euro and/or becoming part of the Schengen area as preconditions for rejoining, and if so, how we will build public support for those changes, instead of pointlessly putting off for years.

  • “not banging on about something that has sadly happened”

    I don’t think we should be using this Brexiter language against ourselves. The 2016 referendum was characterised by lies on an industrial scale, exclusion of EU citizens and expatriates who would be most affected, failure to specify a supermajority, and electoral fraud. By any reasonable reckoning it should have been declared null and void. Yet this abomination has been allowed to determine the entire future of our country. Somebody should be banging on about it! Or do you think it should be swept under the carpet and the perpetrators allowed to get away with it?

    Only by reminding the public about these features of the original Brexit vote will we once again build a case for a second and properly conducted vote.

  • To Peter Martin

    “Especially as there will be the need to adopt the euro and Schengen”

    Many countries in the EU have kept their own currencies and/or not joined the Schengen area – there is no reason to suppose this would be a requirement of Britain’s rejoining. However, we might decide to do both if we became more enthusiastically pro-European

  • Peter Martin 28th Sep '20 - 11:05pm

    @ Paul R,

    The creation of the euro with the Maastricht Treaty was essentially about creating an economic union which would have to develop into a political union to survive. It’s just not possible to have a common currency without one. It needs an EU govt to administer it. The ECB has done wonders keeping it going as long as it has but it can’t continue to stand in for a EU govt indefinitely.

    You should know all about EU Federalism. There are plenty of Federalists in the Lib Dems. You should also be aware of the views of Guy Verhofstadt. He spoke at your previous party conference and has written a book called the United States of Europe. It’s a perfectly respectable ambition. The difficulty, as you implicitly suggest, is that it doesn’t have enough popular support to see it through.

    So the EU needs to become the USE to survive but it can’t do that because there is insufficient popular support!

    @ brothertony,

    I’d be in favour of rejoining EFTA, subject to public acceptance of negotiated terms. I was happy enough with the old EEC. It’s the changes that came with the EU which were steps too far for most.

  • Peter Martin 28th Sep '20 - 11:21pm

    @ John King,

    “The goals of the European Union are:………….. (to) establish an economic and monetary union whose currency is the euro”

    https://europa.eu/european-union/about-eu/eu-in-brief_en

    I’d add political union too. This makes sense from a Federalist perspective. One country needs just one currency. Denmark won’t be too much of a problem to bring into line when the EU calls time on their use of the krone. They already tick all the boxes for euro entry. Sweden might be more problematic. The UK would, had we still been members, have been just about impossible.

    We just don’t have the right type of economy to toe the euro line. We are both better off going our separate ways.

  • It was clear from the debate on Europe that there are very different ways of looking at the world. To me the idea that the country is divided between those who support membership of the EU and those opposed to it is ridiculous. My experience is that people do in fact want to know the facts before having a view. The fact is that the amount of factual information given by the pro-EU membership side was severely limited, certainly compared with the withdrawal side. The truth should have been spelt out in a form which people could understand and remember.
    I hope that all in the party will have a chance to read the recent Social Liberal Forum publication ¨Winning for Britain ….¨ (see SLF website) which outlines a methodology high can be used as part of a strategy which could lead to the message getting through.

  • Peter Martin 29th Sep '20 - 4:25am

    Some points to consider:

    1) Any country wishing to rejoin the EU has to apply in the normal way as specified under Art49 of the Lisbon Treaty.

    2) A successful future application would require a new political consensus in the UK. Seeking to rejoin the EU has to result from a genuine change of heart, not expedient self-interest. The EU will look for consistent majority public opinion in favour of rejoining. Something like 60% minimum over a period of years. If the UK bids for membership without consensus, its application won’t pass. The EU will not risk another Brexit. It won’t want highly disruptive EU Parliamentary representation for a strong Brexit Party (or its successor).

    3) The EU will also expect the UK to be a more “normal” member state in any second membership phase. The UK’s previous major concessions – the budget rebate, opt-outs on the euro and Schengen, will not be on offer. There will be no prodigal son treatment. The Brussels establishment sees these as a failed attempt at appeasing Britain’s strongly euro-sceptic culture. They won’t repeat the same mistake.

    It all sounds rather unlikely, but that’s the task for Lib Dems. The current debate is all beside the point. The Lib Dem “position” in the post Brexit period is not going to matter much at all in the end.

  • Peter Martin 29th Sep '20 - 4:26am

    Some points to consider:

    1) Any country wishing to rejoin the EU has to apply in the normal way as specified under Art49 of the Lisbon Treaty.

    2) A successful future application would require a new political consensus in the UK. Seeking to rejoin the EU has to result from a genuine change of heart, not expedient self-interest. The EU will look for consistent majority public opinion in favour of rejoining. Something like 60% minimum over a period of years. If the UK bids for membership without consensus, its application won’t pass. The EU will not risk another Brexit. It won’t want highly disruptive EU Parliamentary representation for a strong Brexit Party (or its successor).

    3) The EU will also expect the UK to be a more “normal” member state in any second membership phase. The UK’s previous major concessions – the budget rebate, opt-outs on the euro and Schengen, will not be on offer. There will be no prodigal son treatment. The Brussels establishment sees these as a failed attempt at appeasing Britain’s strongly euro-sceptic culture. They won’t repeat the same mistake.

    It all sounds rather unlikely, but that’s the task for Lib Dems. The current debate is all beside the point. The Lib Dem “position” in the post Brexit period is not going to matter much at all in the end.

  • As far as what would happen if the U.K. wanted to rejoin, this would very much depend on the views of each of the individual states.
    There is no doubt that if there are obstructions to trade between the U.K. and the various EU countries this will be serious both for the U.K. and in various amounts to each of the EU countries.
    However Liberal Democrats operate in the U.K. We need to consider what will happen in the U.K. The government have a problem in that any sensible agreement is likely to be opposed by a group of Tory MPs. It is also likely to result in the people who financed the original campaign to leave bringing back Farage.
    We really do need to make sure that we start to spread the truth about the EU as things develop.

  • Daniel Walker 29th Sep '20 - 8:56am

    @Peter Martin “Denmark won’t be too much of a problem to bring into line when the EU calls time on their use of the krone.

    Peter. The Danish (and the UK as was) exemption de jure from Euro membership was written in to the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union. It cannot be removed without the consent of Denmark. The EU can no more “call time” on it than it could prevent the UK leaving.

    It also can’t make Sweden join the euro. Notwithstanding the political issues / optics of doing so, they can only insist, under the rules, that Sweden joins the euro if Sweden meets the conditions – it is (demonstrably) trivially easy for Sweden to not make any effort to do so.

  • I suggest we more or less forget the issue. It will take care of itself one way or the other without our intervention. There is no guarantee that we will actually leave the Customs Union, the continuing Pandemic may mean postponement after postponement. Who knows, but there is nothing electorally to be gained for ourselves in even talking about it, especially now that Labour has moved the goal posts taking itself to the Centre, not the Left. The only possible way to get out of the wilderness is to find a major domestic issue that resonates heavily with people, that we can claim as our own. We are losing the Environment to the Greens! Not much left is there?

  • Peter Martin 29th Sep '20 - 10:59am

    @ Daniel,

    You’re probably right on the technicalities of Denmark and its use of the krone. But there’s more to the EU than technicalities!

    The main point is about the UK rejoining the EU. The argument the Lib Dems are having is rather like what do we’d be torn between if we dumped our partner, I was going to say girlfriend! 🙂 and then regretted it afterwards. Should we say we want to get back together straight away, or should we say at some future time when circumstances are right etc etc.

    We should stop to think that neither would be any use and we could well be told to …. … !!!

  • The EU founding fathers knew that political union was a necessary precondition for a common currency but they doubted whether the ordinary people could be persuaded to agree to such an ambitious experiment. They calculated that having the Euro before political union would eventually precipitate a financial crisis and this would force political union as the solution.

    The long expected “beneficial” crisis came and went just over a decade ago. Everyone expected a large step change in closer political union but instead they got a fudging of the rules and effectively the ECB baled out the debt laden countries. What went wrong?

    The Europhiles driving ever closer integration still see political unification as a brightly shining beacon that must be achieved. Nervous heads of state knew that while their voters like the single market they were concerned about democratic accountability and further integration. Mrs Merkel did not grasp the opportunity. Her own voters were already unhappy with their role as paymaster.

    We seem to be approaching yet another crisis. Continuous news and social media have created a more fickle and politically aware public. Whatever the EU chooses to do will result in fierce opposition. Increasingly, inactivity is becoming possibly the worst option.

  • Antony Watts 29th Sep '20 - 11:22am

    It’s not a question of “buildnig a message” that is Johnson et al stuff.

    It is a question of conceeding for th egreater good that we will share and support EU laws about the way we do things. Not just a so-called socvereign UK parliament in all things.

    For that is the core issue. Get on with others to mutual benefit or sit alone.

  • The EU project of political union, pooled sovereignty, common currency and ongoing integration is the ideological dream of Europhiles all over Europe. These people are motivated, passionate and will always see the project as a bright shining beacon of cooperation.
    But they are tiny in number compared with the vast majority of the population. The majority have no ideological loyalty to the EU but are prepared to go along with the project to some degree. That degree depends on practical and financial considerations but also takes into account sovereignty, control, freedom and commitments and a variety of other factors.
    The half-finished project requires political union to underpin its crisis prone currency. The dilemma is whether the majority will proceed with further integration and the resulting loss of sovereignty or whether it will see this as a step too far. As the weakened leaders of Europe ponder this problem, a new financial crisis is approaching. The previous crisis, a decade ago, was supposed to be the beneficial crisis that would sweep in financial union, but Mrs Merkel lost her nerve at the last moment.
    The same theme has just played out in Brexit. The UK population would have been happy with a trading bloc of independent, sovereign nations but not with unwelcome ever closer union and increasing costs. This party does not see that. It sees the EU through ideological eyes. As the party ponders future strategy, the EU beacon shines as brightly as ever. But to the majority of the population, if joining the single market means giving up the pound and control of our borders then the EU beacon looks very dim indeed. But the dream includes the firm belief that Brexit will fail and the majority will sign up to the dream. I’m tempted to say, “Dream on.”

  • Pete-

    “This party … sees the EU through ideological eyes.” I don’t get the impression that is the case any longer, especially as far as the leadership is concerned. They have sought to move the party towards a much more pragmatic and sceptical stance, with a their original preference for keeping all options open.

    ” the dream includes the firm belief that Brexit will fail” Brexit is a destructive process, like swallowing slow poison. If it fails, that’s the best that can be hoped for. It’s if it succeeds, that’s the problem.

  • I’m tempted to argue that we should never mention the EU again in any campaign literature, manifesto or public forum. It’s electoral poison and, besides, we lost. We should get over it.

  • Peter Martin 29th Sep '20 - 3:11pm

    @ John King,

    “Brexit is a destructive process, like swallowing slow poison.”

    We know you think that. But isn’t this just a confirmation of Pete’s “the dream includes the firm belief that Brexit will fail” ?

    But suppose it doesn’t? Yes they’ll be problems, but it’s quite possible that the EU will have many more problems than we will deciding who is going to pay for the Covid epidemic. The residents of Surrey will be paying proportionately much more than the residents of Sunderland, but because we all have the same government that’s never going to erupt into major conflict.

    This is not how it will be in the EU. Germans and Dutch taxpayers, especially those in the wealthier regions will have to be doing the paying for the spending by Italians and others in the less wealthy regions. Maybe we’ll hear them say that this is how it has to be in any currency union.

    On the other hand they could say that most of the money is just a loan and they want it back. There’s not much chance of that! That could lead to so much conflict that the EU will be torn apart.

    What then?

  • @Peter Martin – No, that is not what the Maastricht Treaty was about. There is no commitment from ANY member state to create a “political union” (whatever that maybe in reality) anywhere in the EU Treaties.

    It is perfectly possible to have a common currency without forming any form of “political union” much less single government.

    There are in fact several currency unions – both formal ones and informal ones – that predate the launch of the Euro by several decades, none of which have ever felt the need to launch any new “United States of (wherever)” in the decades of their existence.

    As for Guy Verhofstadt, unlike you or I, he did serve as PM of an EU country and did sit in the European Council meetings where he was perfectly free to formally propose the creation of a “United States of Europe”. He did not do so either at domestic or EU level.

    Making your decisions based on the opinion of M Verhofstadt’s opinions is as silly as someone switching to backing Scottish Independence because England or Wales (suddenly) elects an MP who openly advocates for a Communist U.K.

  • @Stewart – if you follow your logic to its conclusion, then as we have lost repeatedly to the Conservatives, the LDs should abandon Liberalism in its entirety and just advocate and vote for Conservative policies. (And equally during the Blair years, the LDs should have just advocated for and voted for Labour policies.) That’s pointless strategy for a political party trying to offer an alternative.

  • @Pete – your post says a lot about your fantasy of the EU. It certainly isn’t one that the other member states share though.

  • It is not my intention to criticise the ideological belief that the EU is a great project. I am pointing out that it is a minority belief and therefore one must not be surprised that the majority do not see it that way. To claim that they are swallowing poison is to misunderstand this point.

    I agree with Peter Martin, life outside the EU may be better. That is why I voted to leave. The EU thinks that too. That is why they are prepared to make us leave with no deal. They are afraid that the UK will become a dynamic and successful competitor and will do everything to regulate our competitive advantages out of existence. That is why they want to continue controlling our state aid, workers’ rights, environmental protection, and other aspects that lie outside of normal trade deals. They also want to retain the status quo on fish stocks, an arrangement that decimated our fishing industry.

  • Paul R
    “There is no commitment from ANY member state to create a political union.”
    Yes, that is probably a true statement and that is the problem the EU has today. I shall not repeat what I said above but the future of the currency is in jeopardy if they do not create a central treasury with the power to raise taxes and redistribute wealth. As commitment to the project gradually fades, German voters are becoming less and less enchanted with this prospect. The Northern countries are coming to the same conclusion. The founding fathers thought a financial crisis would force political union. Perhaps it will force the collapse of the European Union.

  • Peter Martin 29th Sep '20 - 6:25pm

    @ Paul R,

    I don’t normally quote Milton Friedman but he’s spot-on with this:

    “The drive for the euro has been motivated by politics, not economics. The aim has been to link Germany and France so closely as to make a future European war impossible, and to set the stage for a federal United States of Europe.”

    So, the creation of the euro, which came about as part of the Maastricht Treaty, was very much about the creation of political unity. But he goes on to say:

    ” I believe that adoption of the euro would have the opposite effect. It would exacerbate political tensions by converting divergent shocks that could have been readily accommodated by exchange-rate changes into divisive political issues. Political
    unity can pave the way for monetary unity. Monetary unity imposed under unfavourable conditions will prove a barrier to the achievement of political unity”

    In other words, it won’t work.

    https://miltonfriedman.hoover.org/friedman_images/Collections/2016c21/1997novtimesWhyEurope.pdf

    “There are in fact several currency unions………that predate the launch of the Euro by several decades”

    Such as?

  • john oundle 29th Sep '20 - 8:52pm

    Paul R

    ‘Therefore it is not a case that “the EU has to make the transition to the United States of Europe” as you claim.’

    It’s a slow gradual process mostly by stealth but all the hallmarks are there.

    A flag,anthem, single currency,mutualisation of debt & an army to mention just a few,and politicians like GV are completely open about it being the end goal.

  • Why was revoke undemocratic?

    Flawed tactics probably, but not undemocratic. The UK is a parliamentary democracy and general elections results take precedence over any other form of vote. A new government cannot have its hands tied by anything its predecessor has done.

    Perhaps the failure of revoke was to do with not confronting head on the allegation that it was undemocratic.

  • Peter Martin 30th Sep '20 - 3:52am

    @ Marco,

    ” A new government cannot have its hands tied by anything its predecessor has done.”

    Except when that predecessor has signed a new EU Treaty?

  • Daniel Walker 30th Sep '20 - 7:53am

    @Peter Martin “Except when that predecessor has signed a new EU Treaty?

    Demonstrably not, Peter…

  • @ Peter Martin

    “ Except when that predecessor has signed a new EU Treaty?”

    No there are no exceptions. A government with a majority can repeal any legislation.

    Any majority government at any time could have invoked Article 50 and repealed the European Communities Act without a referendum.

    The proper role of a referendum in a parliamentary democracy is to act as a veto on a major constitutional reform. It is an extra hurdle that a government has to cross. It should not be used to compel a parliament to do something it does not want to do or tie the hands of future parliaments.

    We could do with a written constitution to clarify this.

  • Peter Martin 30th Sep '20 - 9:27am

    @ John King,

    You’re obviously unhappy about the “exclusion of EU citizens and expatriates” from certain UK elections and referendums.

    Just who should be included, and excluded, is a moot point. You have to draw the line somewhere. Do you have any evidence that UK law is a seriously out of line with other western democracies? If it is, it errs by being on the generous side as it probably should.

    The laws in Germany are far more stringent. Voting there is for citizens only.

    “The right to vote is in principle reserved for German citizens and the so-called “status Germans” who are refugees and expelled persons of German descent that settled in Germany. The introduction of a right to vote for foreigners would require an alteration of §20 of the constitution.”

    Lib Dems really need to move on and stop complaining “we wuz robbed”. Reserve that phrase for when the ref controversially disallows a goal by your favourite football team.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Electoral_system_of_Germany

  • Peter Martin 30th Sep '20 - 9:35am

    @ Marco,

    “No there are no exceptions. A government with a majority can repeal any legislation.”

    This is the argument used by the present government in support of their Internal Market Bill. It can both repeal old laws and create new legislation as it sees fit.

    The problem arises when a previous government has signed a Treaty with no time limit.

    A new Government should always have the power to override what a previous Govt has signed up to but it should be done only in the most exceptional of circumstances.

  • Daniel Walker 30th Sep '20 - 11:01am

    @Peter Martin “This is the argument used by the present government in support of their Internal Market Bill. It can both repeal old laws and create new legislation as it sees fit.

    Yes, Peter. The UK is sovereign, it can repudiate treaties. As you say, this should only be done in exceptional circumstances, and not 6 months after the same government signed it, but the point of sovereignty is that you can do something, not that you should, or that it is wise¹. You’ve basically just admitted that you agree that the Treaties of Rome, Maastricht, and Lisbon didn’t ultimately affect UK sovereignty, any more than membership of the Universal Postal Union does.

    1. I have sovereignty over my own body; I am perfectly at liberty to deliberately stab a chisel into my thigh. But I shouldn’t do that, because it is very unwise.

  • Peter Martin 30th Sep '20 - 1:26pm

    @ Daniel,

    You need to distinguish between the legal states of affairs classified as ‘de jure’ and ‘de facto’

    When we were in the EU we continually amended UK legislation to comply with any changes in EU legislation. So the ‘de facto’ situation was that we had given up sovereignty in such areas as Agricultural Policy, Fishing Policy, Immigration policy, Tariff and Trade Policy etc etc

    But of course we could have refused to do that. But as we were still members of the EU at the time, it was right that we didn’t.

    Gina Miller, somewhat ironically, helped establish the true legal position when she took the Govt to court over its implementation of Art50. The court ruled that Parliament should always have the final say.

  • Daniel Walker 30th Sep '20 - 3:09pm

    @Peter Martin “You need to distinguish between the legal states of affairs classified as ‘de jure’ and ‘de facto’

    I know the difference, Peter. It’s neatly encapsulated in your sentence “But of course we could have refused to do that”. We could have (and have, unfortunately) refused at any time – that would be us exercising our sovereignty both de jure and de facto (obviously the fact that we helped make the rules means we are more likely to accept them). The fact that doing so hits upon other problems (economic collapse, the border on the island of Ireland, Kent becoming a lorry park, food and medicine supply issues, etc.) doesn’t change the fact that, demonstrably, we had sovereignty, and always did.

    Membership of the Universal Postal Union obliges the UK in several ways (stamp design, accepting “terminal dues” for deliveries, for example) We are, by your standard, therefore not completely sovereign over our postal system, despite the fact that a)we help make the rules; and b) we can leave at any time. It would be daft, but we could do it¹.

    1. Indeed Trump threatened to pull the US out at one stage, although somewhat surprisingly he may have actually had a point. Stopped clocks, eh?

  • Peter Martin 30th Sep '20 - 3:30pm

    @ Daniel,

    You’re fighting lost battles! There’s still one to fight on the Internal Markets Bill. But as you say ultimately Parliament has sovereignty so it will do as it sees fit. And as you point out, what it can do and what it should do don’t necessarily coincide.

    A pity you didn’t think of the UPU argument in early 2016 🙂 That could have clearly swung things the other way!

  • After all of that, if you join the EU you have to obey every regulation, and there are masses and masses and masses and…..

  • Peter Hirst 3rd Oct '20 - 3:23pm

    It is a truism that you have to leave in order to rejoin. Rejoin is a stronger verb than remain. We should stick to our guns and campaign to rejoin when the time is right. I think it will be fairly obvious when that time has come.

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