Obama should exit the 'Brexit' debate

by DANIEL HANNAN March 22, 2016

Let's imagine it the other way around. Suppose I were to tell you that you must accept the decisions of the Organization of American States as superior to the laws of your country. Suppose I were to add that you should acknowledge a Pan-American Parliament based in, say, Caracas, and having precedence over Congress. For good measure, let's throw in a Central Bank in Buenos Aires that would administer your new currency, the Pan-American Peso.

How would you respond? I'm guessing that it would be something along the lines of: "Buzz off!" You might be tempted to use a stronger word than "buzz." You might add that the days when Americans took instructions from overseas came to an end after Yorktown.

And you'd be right. The United States has prospered under her own laws and her own representatives. Few nations that have tried independence have later volunteered to give it back. Indeed, the United States arguably goes further than any other country on Earth in asserting her sovereignty, rejecting the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court and acquiescing only partially and with reservations in the work of the United Nations.

And yet Barack Obama thinks nothing of telling the United Kingdom that we should be a province of the European Union (EU). Campaigners for our membership want to involve him in the referendum campaign now underway in Britain. Disregarding the convention that a head of government should not intervene directly in the domestic affairs of a friendly democracy, they urge him to repeat his message that British subordination before the EU is both in America's interest and in Britain's.

The first point is doubtful; the second is none of his bloody business. It's true that the State Department sponsored the integration of Western Europe in the 1950s, hoping to build a bulwark against Soviet expansionism. But that rationale, if ever it was valid, became irrelevant a quarter of a century ago. From Korea to Kosovo, when there is work to be done, people have turned to the Anglosphere, not to Old Europe. Jean-Claude Juncker, the president of the European Commission, now says that we should have an EU army to let Vladimir Putin know we are serious. I suspect that the old KGB man would like nothing more than for some EU force to say to NATO, "OK, guys, we'll take this from here".

There is, moreover, little doubt that, outside the EU, Britain and the U.S. would have signed a properly liberal trade agreement decades ago instead of waiting for the corporatist Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, currently being manipulated by cartels and vested interests in Brussels.

Still, I suppose it's legitimate for foreign politicians to express what they see as their own interests. I get similar stuff from Europeans all the time. "Don't leave us alone with the bills!" say German politicians. "Don't leave us alone with the Germans!" say politicians from everywhere else.

Fair enough. But neither of these arguments are persuasive from a British point of view. Nor, frankly, is President Obama's contention that we should surrender our independence so as to make the EU slightly less protectionist. Even if that were true - even if our membership meant a more British Europe rather than a more European Britain - that wouldn't be a good reason to abandon a thousand years of parliamentary sovereignty.

The EU is showing its age. It's a leftover from the top-down,dirigiste, big-bloc thinking of the 1950s. This might explain President Obama's soft spot for it. But the rest of the world is going in the opposite direction. In an era of Skype and cheap air travel, regional customs unions look obsolete. The idea that we should meekly acquiesce in the rulings of transnational bureaucracies seems terribly 20th century.

Take another look at your Declaration of Independence. See how aptly the colonists' grievances might now be leveled against the EU: "a jurisdiction foreign to our constitution"; "abolishing the free System of English Laws"; "declaring themselves invested with the power to legislate for us"; "obstructing the Laws for the Naturalization of Foreigners". There is even, uncannily, an anticipation of the European Parliament, which moves every month between Brussels and Strasbourg: "He has called together legislative bodies at places unusual, uncomfortable and distant".

On June 23, Britain will vote on whether to recover her independence. Americans, of all people, should sympathize.

Daniel Hannan is a British writer and journalist, and has been Conservative MEP for South East England since 1999. He speaks French and Spanish and loves Europe, but believes that the EU is making its constituent nations poorer, less democratic and less free. He is the winner of the Bastiat Award for online journalism.


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