How many times have we been told that the UK is not important, to stop whingeing about the EU, to stop trying to change things for our own selfish ends? And now, Professor Michael Dougan’s message is, “The UK, to put it simply, has enormous influence within the EU.”
Isn’t it a shame that, publicly, EU officials spent so much time traducing us? Citizens of the UK were given the impression that our government was regarded as an irritant. It will be largely because of things said by the same EU officials that the myth has grown up among Brits that the UK is unimportant and a little bit arrogant about its position in the world.
Michael Dougan is Professor of European Law at the University of Liverpool. A video of him talking about the Referendum campaign has become very popular with Remain. It has been copiously shared on Facebook. Although, at nearly 25 minutes long, we might wonder how many people have actually watched it. These are some things he had to say in that video.
“Remain hasn’t covered itself in glory with its dependence on dodgy statistics.
“But as a professional researcher (watching Leave) it’s a bit like an evolutionary biologist listening to a bunch of creationists telling the public that creation theory is right.
…on the status of the EU
“The EU is not a sovereign entity. Far from being a sovereign state, it is not even a sovereign entity. It has only those powers given it under EU treaties.
“And if the UK courts sometimes give priority to EU law, in the event of a conflict with domestic law, it’s purely because our Parliament has expressly instructed them to do so.
“So why is sovereignty talked about so much? It’s because sovereignty has become short-hand for power and influence.
“So if you leave an international organisation – like the UN for example – you are basically saying I’m prepared to accept that I’m not going to influence certain things in order to keep my theoretical power more intact.
…on the influence of the UK
“The Big Three – Germany, France and the UK – provide the EU with its political, economic and diplomatic leadership.
“The UK, to put it simply, has enormous influence within the EU. It sets agendas, it negotiates alliances, it builds and brokers compromises.
“And despite the fact that majority voting is now the normal rule within the Council of Ministers, the EU is not run by the unelected Eurocrats of the Commission we hear about all the time, it’s actually run by the 28 governments working together in the Council together with the European Parliament.”
Which leaves us …. where?
There’s some controversy online about Professor Dougan’s status as an independent commentator. As holder of the Jean Monnet chair at Liverpool University, his post is the beneficiary of a €50,000 EU grant spread over three years.
Whether that compromises him is for others to judge. But at least this part of his message could have been the message of Remain – rather than the scare tactics of loss of household income, financial armageddon and a massive drop in property values. Voters might then have been less exercised by our supposedly diminished status in the event of Leave, and a little more confident of our ability to change things from within.
On the other hand, Leave could have majored on the EU’s democratic deficit and the damage wreaked by the Euro, particularly in southern Europe. Maybe then some Remain supporters might have found solidarity with the tens of millions suffering, not just here in the UK, but across the EU. And that might have persuaded them to vote Leave.
Either way, there was a better debate to be had. The question is – can we have it now? We’re all beginning to understand that the fuss of the last six months and the referendum result itself is not legally binding. Instead of fighting amongst ourselves, perhaps we could switch our energies to demanding a new deal, one that removes all hindrance to equal opportunities wherever you live in the EU.