#EURef and seeing sense on the matter of national sovereignty…

A Chartered Accountant by professional qualification, Robert Jenkins has over 30 years’ EU-related business experience. He has also been active in Conservative politics, and is the author of Tony Benn, A Political Biography.

The UK’s EU Referendum is fundamentally about national sovereignty, but there is little understanding about the EU and how it affects this. This contribution provides a fresh understanding of these issues. This is a short summary of my more detailed report Sense About Sovereignty (PDF).

The UK’s conferral and sharing sovereignty is for specified EU purposes, with the core areas of its national sovereignty satisfactorily protected:

  • The EU’s constitutional arrangements specify those areas where Member States have conferred “competence” exclusively to EU level, fundamentally relate to the effective functioning of its Single Market  – eg competition and internal market transparency.
  • Competence is otherwise either shared at EU level or remains exclusively with the Member States. Core areas of sovereignty remain under national control – public expenditure and taxation, defence, domestic and foreign policy.
  • The EUs two key principles:
  • Subsidiarity: where the EU does not have exclusive competence, it can only act if it is better placed than its Member States to do so;
  • Proportionality: the scope of EU action must be limited to what is necessary to achieve its objectives, with Member States determining how policy decisions taken at EU level are actually implemented at national level.
  • All proposed EU legislation must be approved in advance by national Parliaments as consistent with subsidiarity and also by the democratically, directly elected EU Parliament.

EU membership enhances the UK’s practical sovereignty by:

  • Giving access to the Single Market, representing around one-quarter of the world’s GDP;
  • Enhancing the UK’s political influence internationally because of the EU’s standing as a leading global political entity.
  • These benefits more than offset bureaucratic and financial costs to the UK of EU membership.

The UK’s national interest is to remain in the EU:

  • Its special status outside the Eurozone is secure, without it having to participate in any further political integration by other of its Member States.
  • Should the UK leave the EU, it will, in any event, have to comply with EU regulations in exporting to it, and if still in the Single Market, will have to make a comparable financial contribution to the EU, with EU free movement of labour requirements also continuing to apply.
  • The EU faces major challenges, in particular in relation to the sustainability of the Eurozone and its political cohesion. However it is in the UK’s national interest to work for its reform from within the EU, and for it to leave it would be reckless. Nevertheless, should this not prove to be in its national interest in due course, the UK can leave it at some future stage since sovereignty is always inalienable. 


  • Sir Rantsalot

    Hmmm ‘man who’s business income has been involved with the EU for 30 years, writes pro EU article, shockaa!!!’

    Quoting what it says in the EU rule book is pointless. Everyone knows that the EU does not function remotely anything like what is described above. I noted that he left out immigration control. It’s obvious he is trying to portray a false impression. Another remain propaganda fail.

  • Kevin Breslin

    A few questions to unionists about sovereignty, why do you celebrate:

    * a Dutchman who took British and Irish national sovereignty away and give it up to the League of Augsburg in William of Orange.

    * Irish men who helped to form both a British and Irish national sovereignty union and gave away soverignty to Congress of Vienna when it accepted a common social policy as well as trade and political policy between European nations in Lord Castlereagh and the Duke of Wellington

    A few questions to unionists who praise Free Trade and Treaties, why do you celebrate:

    * A British Dubliner with a rich Dublin brogue stood up to Free Trade Agreements, stood up to nations who reneged on their treaty commitments towards other nations in Edward Carson

    Do I need to go on?

  • Sir Rantsalot

    You’ll need to go on if you want to make an actual point about 2016 ! 🙂

  • Kevin Breslin

    The big problem with using the migration argument in a Northern Ireland context is that even inside the EU net migration is set to reach zero this year next year and the population is set to decline.

    People don’t want to come here

    People don’t want to work here

    People don’t even want to have families here.

    Being red faced about migration is not an economic activity most of the world would want to pay for.

    We’ve got migration totally under control in Northern Ireland … but there is a section of our population who envy to sort of monoracial, monocultural and monoreligious authoritarian states like North Korea where individuality is effectively outlawed.

    Intolerance is causing the Malthusian problems in Northern Ireland, not Migration. We’re driving skills away, because we’re intolerant of the people who have them both in terms of the native population and those from abroad.

    People seem to believe the National Health Service is run on Nationalism rather than Health or Service.


  • Kevin Breslin

    Since joining the EU Unionists have sent Diane Dodds and Jim Nicholson, Jim Allister and Jim Nicholson, Ian Paisley and Jim Nicholson, Ian Paisley and Jim Nicholson there as their two. If you want to speak about finances of Brussels, our own Jim Nicholson was a Quaestor and one of three British people to hold the post deciding EUP parliamentary expenses, a position which looks after the financial and administrative interests of MEPs.

    Arguably it is the only international body that has had any Ulster based/Northern Irish Unionist representation whatsoever since the days of Lord Castlereagh. Prior to joining the EEC, some Unionist political leaders were even considering Ulster nationalism as a solution to that democratic deficit.

  • Hubward

    The EU currently is looking to develop its own Defence Policy, Its own Foreign policy and is pushing for harmonising taxation policy. It already limits the public expenditure of Governments in the Eurozone & through the various strands of regulation it impacts directly on the domestic policy a national government can pursue. But apart from that the Core Areas are unchallenged.

  • mickfealty

    Back up to number three in my own Google Search under “Play the ball and not the man…” http://goo.gl/3wHBR. Seriously.

  • mickfealty

    Can you try to read the report Kev? It’s not about migration, it’s about sovereignty. I’m not going to the trouble of getting this kind of material together so people can just go off on their own predetermined tracks.

  • Kevin Breslin

    My point is why do you need sovereignty to control migration within Northern Ireland, when reputation and indigenous “culture” makes all the passive effort?

  • Kevin Breslin

    And that’s been vetoed by neutral European nations and NATO nations alike.

    Meanwhile NATO keeps 22 of the 28 EU Nations, Norway and Iceland in a military union with Turkey.

    France and the UK effectively have a common navy and nuclear strategy.

    Multinational Peacekeeping organisations and multinational Military campaigns have pretty much been carried out with European forces since the Crusades and arguably before then.

    Ergo why St George’s cross is seen in Georgia, England and both the Ulster Provincial Flag and Northern Irish one, as well as flags of several other European regions.

  • Chingford Man

    “gave away soverignty [sic] to Congress of Vienna”

    Rubbish. No sovereignty was surrendered to the Congress of Vienna, or the Concert of Europe that operated in the following decades.

  • Chingford Man

    Jenkins tries to split up sovereignty from a single legal concept to a set of little bundles, some being controlled by the UK, others by the EU. But you can’t splice and dice sovereignty. It’s like virginity – either you have it or you don’t. That truth has finally trickled down to voters, and that’s why the polls are so close.

    The problem for Jenkins is that, for all his sophistry, people are now understanding what the EU means for national sovereignty all too well.

  • Kevin Breslin

    The whole purpose of the Congress of Vienna and Concert of Europe was for all these imperial nations to surrender sovereignty over imperial assets in the name of world peace. National governments undemocratically swapped and sold them, and monarchies and republics were replaced by these European Unions as spoils of war.

  • Kevin Breslin

    And I’ve read the report now, there’s 8 mentions of migration control.

    I just find it hypocritical that people seem to believe that we even need migrants to be xenophobes.

    Instead of praising the UK for being tolerant to other cultures by accepting the diversity that they bring to this side, people here want to see more clones of what we have.

  • Chingford Man

    The Concert of Europe was a voluntary association of European powers with no rules or permanent institutions. Nothing like the EU.

  • Ben De Hellenbacque

    Do you really see sovereignty as absolute? If you take a look at English history you will see that full English sovereignty has never really existed in an absolute sense, except for most of the Tudor dynasty. When England was a Catholic country it was subject to the policies of the Holy See which influenced internal sovereignty. Having joined many alliances of differing types in the centuries since UK sovereignty (both internal and external) can only be seen as moot.

  • Sir Rantsalot

    Sorry, I didn’t have time to list his points and reply to each, as I was in work.
    But the issue with almost all pro remain people and organizations, is their vested interest in keeping the EU alive. That is a major factor in highlighting the lies and dishonesty from remain.
    I have to go now, need to build my bomb shelter for this weekend’s WWW3 !

  • Sir Rantsalot

    Appreciate the more up to date references, but I don’t see a point related to remain? The point about elected reps having no say in the EU, is UK wide and not just NI. We (all UK) have no say in the EU, but the EU makes our laws. Have you switched to the only sensible option, to leave the EU and run our own country?

  • mickfealty

    That’s utterly useless to me. The reason people who disagree with each other here are generally civil is because we have a civilising rule. That’s you must play the ball.

    If you think that’s unreasonable, fine. But you will find if you want to make an issue of it I’m rather inflexible on the matter. Then you will have to take your ball and go and play somewhere that allows that sort of man playing.

  • Anglo-Irish

    Have to confess that I’m a little confused as to this national sovereignty problem.

    Since becoming members of the EU Britain has carried out the following actions under it’s own parliamentary authority;

    Fought a war with Argentina

    Invaded Iraq

    Fought a war in Afghanistan

    Conducted an internal insurrection war in NI

    Bombed Libya

    Discussed and decided against military action in Syria

    Inserted a number of ‘advisors’ into trouble spots around the world

    Maintained a nuclear deterrent in partnership with a non EU country

    Authorised that non EU country to fly strike missions out of Britain

    Additionally, Britain refused to join the Euro or sign up for Schengen, and it maintains a link with the Commonwealth including a shared head of state.

    Britain has also obtained a guarantee that no further political integration will be forced upon it and that it will retain it’s veto as an EU member.

    So, this loss of Sovereignty problem, what exactly should I be worried about?