Sovereignty

A hundred Tories, led by Steve Baker MP, have got together to plan to knife Mr Cameron in the back or something.

I listened to Mr Baker and Mr Clarke explaining their respective positions on the radio yesterday. Mr Clarke made sense, Mr Baker didn’t. But perhaps I am just a prejudiced Europhile. Mr Clarke explained that the main benefit of the EU is a single market and  that a single market needs a single set of rules otherwise it isn’t a single market.  Mr Baker waffled on about parliamentary sovereignty.

There’s something almost endearing about British Conservative politicians’ love of the idea of Parliamentary Sovereignty, as if it were some sacred cow that, were we to sacrifice, we would all go to hell in a handcart. Or are heading that way because we have already done so.  In doing so they absolutely miss the point about what’s wrong with the EU – and there is a lot wrong with it.  Parliamentary sovereignty is an historical notion that goes back to the Civil War and the Orange putsch of 1688.  It’s not Parliament which is now sovereign, but the people. (please not for mercy’s sake “The British People” though, which has become as hideous a political cliche as “hard-working families”). Popular sovereignty gives us referenda and democracy, and that’s where we’re at.

I am not concerned whether it’s one lot of snouts-in-the-trough politicians or another that gets the final say about the harmonised regulations on food safety.  I am concerned that across Europe, the regulations on food safety should protect innovative small producers against giant corporates,  let me buy artisanal Romanian cheese in London and make sure that none of the food I buy has too much arsenic in it. The quality of the regulation matters far more than who actually does it, and for food regulation it’s best done by technocrats who understand food hygiene than by  Parliamentarians who don’t even understand their own history.  However, it does need to be done transparently so we can see what the big corporates are lobbying for.  (to be allowed to sell bleach-cleaned chicken to European consumers without telling them, for one thing, in the secret TTIP negotiations….)

The EU is far too opaque and, with negotiations like TTIP, getting more opaque. That’s what’s wrong with it, not the fact that Mr Baker doesn’t get the chance to grandstand over every line of food safety regulations. Mr Cameron would do us all more favours if he were arguing for more openness rather than getting into a silly tug-of-war over who gets what power.

Oh and whatever the outcome of Mr Cameron’s negotiations, I will be voting “yes” just as surely as Mr Baker will be voting “No”. I want to fix the EU, not to flounce away from it.  And as pinky-green, I’m  really looking forward to watching the Tories go in for one their regular Euro-meltdowns.  Let’s just hope that this time they do a proper job of it.

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