The EU has always been a political project, even though it was disguised as a “common market”. Its objective was – and is – the creation of a federal superstate in which individual nations would eventually lose their sovereignty and indeed, their identity. Sixty years after the Treaty of Rome, the EU remains committed to its original objectives. François Hollande, the former French President, celebrated the 90th birthday of the veteran Euroeapn Commisson President Jacques Delors, by saying, “What threatens us is the lack of Europe, not the excess of it,” The current President of European Commission, Jean-Claude Juncker, used his “state of the Union” speech in September 2017 to argue for the surrender of more national vetoes, a banking union, closer military integration, a European finance minister and so on. In other words, step by step, the member states must carry on giving up their independence and handing over more power to Brussels.

Although little progress has so far been made in the Brexit talks, one feature which has been brought into prominence is just how much power we have already given away as a result of our 40+ years’ membership of the EU. We cannot strike our own trade deals, we cannot refuse to put EU legislation on our statute books; we cannot manage our fisheries and so on.

Defenders of the EU project dismiss our concerns. They regard to concept of the Nation State as an anachronism. For instance emblazoned these words on the wall in the EU Parliament’s Visitors Centre are the following words:- “National sovereignty is the root cause of the most crying evils of our times…The only final remedy for this supreme and catastrophic evil of our time is a federal union of the peoples.”

This is a very myopic view of the world. Only in Europe is there this lack of confidence in the viability of the nation state.  Elsewhere, in Asia, North and South America, Australasia and in some European countries like Norway and Switzerland, we see that successful nation states are still thriving – and with good reason. The nation state, especially one boasting a well-established democratic process, encourages limited, accountable government. It acts as a brake on tyranny and fosters a sense of community.

For this reason, Brexit will be a real blessing for the people of the UK. We have given up much for little gain. Our history, in particular our early establishment as a nation, our Common Law legal system and our mature parliamentary democracy, stand in stark contrast to that of many other EU member states.  Consequentially, we have often found ourselves the odd man out in the EU, frequently outvoted and usually ending up being forced to make concessions – all to further a political project which very few people actually support. In an opinion conducted by Ipsos Mori in October 2014, only 14% of respondents supported closer EU integration. Independent polling conducted on behalf of the Bruges Group shows that when UK voters were offered the choice of political union or a trade-only relationship, a significant majority supported the trade-only option.

International trade has been important for the UK for centuries. Edward Heath knew he would have to resort to deceit when he realised that we were unlikely to support joining the European project if we realised it would entail the loss of national sovereignty, so he focussed on trade. When the White Paper, The United Kingdom and the European Communities, was published in 1971, no mention was made of the loss of sovereignty. The majority of the UK electorate believed that we were leaving one free trade area, EFTA, to join another bigger one – indeed, you will meet people who now support independence but who will admit that, in 1975, when we voted to stay a member of the EEC (as it then was), they supported remain because they thought the European project was about free trade.

Heath’s deceit affected not just the public but even Government ministers, who viewed the EU as primarily a trading bloc and showed very little interest in its political agenda. Indeed, it can be argued that even some Prime Ministers didn’t fully grasp what the EU was really all about. Margaret Thatcher was deceive into signing the Single European Act in 1986 believing it was all about freeing up trade between member states and failing to grasp that the extension of Qualified Majority Voting meant a surrender of national sovereignty. Even John Major, who was far less Eurosceptic than his predecessor, was taken aside by Germany’s Chancellor Helmut Kohl and told to “go and read the treaties”, implying that he hadn’t really understood the nature of the European project. We dragged our feet when a common EU diplomatic service was proposed, we opted out of the €uro project and the Schengen borderless area. Even now, with the political nature of the EU  better understood, many remain supporters are more concerned about trade-related issues than the question of sovereignty.

But we can’t be a member of the EU and expect to retain our sovereignty. This would put us at odds with the other 27 member states. For too long, we have tried to stay half in, half out. It could not have lasted for ever and had we voted remain, as David Cameron wished us to do, sooner or later, we would have had to surrender more and more of our sovereignty. We got out just in time.

Leaving the EU enables us to re-boot our political system and create a democracy fit for the 21st century. By regaining sovereignty, we can address the issue of accountability which has resulted in very high levels of distrust not only of politicians but of the judiciary, the media and big business. Switzerland, where regional and national politicians can be held to account through binding national referendums, offers us a helpful template for re-shaping the political process in this country.

In summary, staying in the EU would have accelerated the progressive hollowing out of all our national institutions to the point where they had very little effective power. Kenneth Clarke’s hope that one day “the Westminster Parliament {would be} just a council chamber in Europe” would have become a fearsome reality. Instead, we voted to take back control, to return to national sovereignty, which brings with it the opportunity to return to being what we were for many centuries – one of the freest and most democratically advanced nations in the world.

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