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Thu Aug 31, 2017, 07:00 AM

Why Little England Brexiteers miss the point of the European Union


When Voltaire suggested that “If God did not exist, it would be necessary to invent him,” he was not denying the existence of God. Or, as some of his followers have argued, cynically putting down religion. On the contrary, the line forms part of a poetic polemic against atheism. And his point is that a God is an imperative to good social order, a necessary foundation of ethics, morality and co-operation: “This sublime system is necessary to man. It is the sacred tie that binds society.”

Which brings me, convinced atheist, somewhat improbably you may think, to Brexit and to the fundamental flaw in the UK’s negotiating position: its inability to come to terms with the reality, pace Voltaire, that, in this age of globalisation and sovereignty-sharing, “If the European Union did not exist, it would be necessary to invent it.”

Or reinvent it by another name, in broadly the same form, a process we are painfully witnessing in Brussels in the Brexit talks, and the reason why the British are finding it so difficult plausibly to explain where they stand.


Take Theresa May’s apparently visceral hatred of the EU’s European Court of Justice (and of the Council of Europe’s European Court of Human Rights – ironically, in no small measure, a creature of British initiatives). The prime minister considers the involvement of foreign judges in ruling on “British” law anathema – so one of the UK red lines consists of no longer having to abide by this court.

But the UK wants to do a trade deal post-Brexit with the EU, and all trade deals now involve some means of judicial arbitration between the parties over disputes of interpretation. So it is inevitable that the UK will have to agree to establish and accept the jurisprudence of an international tribunal staffed in part by “foreign” judges, British judges and, heaven spare us, EU judges. An ECJ by another name.


You don’t have to love the European Union to acknowledge its necessity in some form in the modern age. Yes, it has a democratic deficit. Yes, it appears to work more for business than for ordinary citizens. But Brexiteers’ Little Englander obsession with the idea itself, with its otherness, misses the point.

Link : https://www.irishtimes.com/news/world/europe/why-little-england-brexiteers-miss-the-point-of-the-european-union-1.3203765?mode=amp

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