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Saturday, May 21, 2005

Something of my own

This (slightly edited) article I wrote back in 1999 for the newsletter of Walsall's Anti-EU Campaign "The Euro Realist." As being both pro-devolution and EU-critical, I have a big dilemma, one I usually overcome by keeping my gob shut! That is, many/most anti-EU people in the UK are anti-devolution, seeing it as a "Europlot" to break up Britain. On the other hand, some (but not all) regionalists in the UK support the EU and its claims to support a "Europe of the regions." Anyway, that was the background (still is) behind me writing the following, which appeared in October 99's "Euro Realist". I doubt whether I changed any minds!

THOUGHTS ON DEMOCRACY & THE CONSTITUTION

EU-critical campaigners often express puzzlement about why there aren't more of us and why more people don't attend public meetings, go on marches, buy our literature, sign our petitions, etc, when opinion polls show so much support for us. I have come to the conclusion that this state of affairs arises because we put too much emphasis on the Westminster Parliament and the process of lobby and/or writing to MPs. Instead we should be putting the emphasis on direct democracy, such as referenda, as the means to prevent further involvement in EU integration and start the rolling back of the EU.

Those who say that this approach would undermine democracy should consider the following. Most anti-Brussels activity in the UK since the 1960s has been concerned with pressurising Parliament. However, despite the majority of people expressing their distrust of the EEC/EC/EU, most MPs keep voting for one pro-integration measure after another. What is the point, then, in campaigning to give power back to MPs from the EU when most need little persuasion in sooner or later handing those powers over to the EU? The time has come to trust the people, via direct democracy, rather than the politicians in Westminster, most of whom you only see in person when there's an election and/or photo-opportunity occurring in your local area.

To quote Paul Ruppen of the Swiss anti-EU organisation the Forum for Direct Democracy (These Tides, Issue 1, p24): "Direct democracy is not only a fundamental right but as well a safeguard against EU-type integration. In parliamentary democracies the EU-integration takes away power from parliament. Often people don't regret this too much as they don't like politicians anyway. In a system of direct democracy, it's the people itself which loses power."

Direct democracy can be seen as a type of constitutional reform, and that phrase seems to drive many EU-critical campaigners into apoplexy. I get extremely annoyed when it is assumed that if one of pro-constitutional reform of any sort, one is pro-EU, and so if one if anti-constitutional reform one is anti-EU. Perhaps I am missing some point here, but I thought that the important issue is whether or not one is anti-EU/anti-euro. Perhaps CRATE (Constitutional Reformers Against The EU) should be formed to jolt some people's preconceptions!

For the record I support England (not Britain) becoming a Federal Republic with elected provincial parliaments and an English Parliament elected via a proper form of PR with the people (5% plus of them anyway) having the constitutional right to initiate referenda. All of this I want to happen outside the EU.

Furthermore, it is not just yours' truly who demonstrates that life is more complex than those who see all constitutional reformers as part of an EU master plan to "break up" Britain would like it to be. For instance, leading anti-PR campaigners Stuart Bell MP and Sir Ken Jackson [erstwhile Blairite Engineers Union leader] are members of the European Movement and fervent supports of Britain joining the euro as soon as possible, as is that long-standing opponent of Scottish devolution, Tam Dalyell.

On the other hand, pro-PR, pro-devolution anti-EU/euro organisations and individuals include the Green and Liberal Parties (not the Lib Dems) and Austin Mitchell MP. I don't see Scotland Against Being Ruled by Europe having a problem with campaigning for Scottish independence outside the EU; nor do members of the SNP who are members of the Campaign Against Euro-Federalism.

Nearer to home, not all those campaign for an English Parliament or massive devolution of powers from Westminster to England's provinces are pro-EU. Many genuine English regionalists look to the pre-1066 Anglo-Saxon Heptarchy as the basis for "bottom-up" region building, rather than the arbitrary and functionalist "top-down" territories the government has imposed for the Regional Development Agencies and European Elections (and which are very similar to the areas in England Cromwell gave the Major-Generals to run in the 1650s. For example the Midlands regionalist group the Mercia Movement [http://www.indepedentmercia.org]is explicitly anti-EU; "The Mercia Movement intends to work for the extrication of the region from the European Union and will give conditional support to genuine movements seeking the same objective." (Mercia Manifesto, 1997, p.121). In short, not all regionalists have fallen for that "Europe of the Regions" guff.

I hate writing conclusions! Like most things in life, I find introductions and conclusions the most difficult part of an essay to write. All I would say is that I hope to have convinced you that anti-EU constitutional reformers are considerably more value to the EU-critical movement than politicians who make "Euro-sceptical" remarks about defending Britain's unity and constitution, while simultaneously overseeing British involvement in the next move towards a United States of Europe (ie every British government since the 1960s...).

1 Comments:

Blogger Toque said...

A good piece. It deals with a lot of the preconceptions that we - the CEP - have to deal with on a daily basis, namely that we are anti-EU and anti-devolution.

In fact we are pro-devolution (devolution to England and then to regions at the behest of the English people if they so desire it) and neutral on the EU (although opposed to the Europe of the Regions model as espoused by such people as Prescott).

1:39 am  

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