There’s so much destructive talk around at the moment (against this, against that) that I wanted to write something constructive. What I want rather than what I don’t want.
Of course I shall write about the relationship between the UK and the EU, it is a subject which is totally dominating UK politics at the moment. So, in terms of a future agreement, here’s what would make me happy:
- freedom of movement. I’d be happy for it to continue, just like (in theory) it does today. And, of course, if it is necessary, you guarantee the rights of people who do settle here. The UK has two sorts of immigration – that from the EU (which can’t be controlled and which has decreased since the referendum), and that from the RoW (which can be controlled). While immigration from the EU has decreased, overall immigration has stayed roughly the same, so therefore RoW immigration has increased. But the point I’m making is that whenever a government minister talks about “control of our borders”, I see it as jingo rather than something credible. It doesn’t overly bother me, and I don’t think it much bothers politicians either.
- trade. I’d commit to maintaining (or even exceeding) EU standards. But only until further notice – I wouldn’t attempt to bind my successors. For that I’d like for the UK to trade freely with the EU – I am wary of the term “union” because, depending on context, it often seems to imply some restriction of the two parties’ ability to trade with third-parties. To be clear, I see something which allows the UK and the EU to trade with each other, but also which doesn’t place any constraints on them trading with third parties. If either the UK or the EU subsequently chose to lower its standards, then I see no problem with the other party possibly walking away from the deal.
So, by those two stances, the problem at the Irish border goes away. We (the UK) don’t fear people coming via Ireland, Ireland doesn’t fear our goods becoming inferior (or vice versa) and flooding their markets. I mean, I’m more of a republican than a nationalist anyway, so I wouldn’t be particularly bothered if NI wanted to align itself away from the UK somehow (either as an independent nation or as part of a united Ireland), so long as that’s what its population wanted. But my beliefs make for a homogeneous border in any case.
- On justice, the key thing for me is that the citizen is subject to a set of rules, and is judged by a court if they’ve fallen foul of those rules, and that court itself is implementing rules defined by by politicians who make up those rules and who are elected by those same citizens. So it kind-of comes full circle. I don’t much mind whether the rules are made in London or in Timbuktu, as long as there is traceability back to the electorate. In the case where the UK is involved in EU institutions, we have to accept that we’ve now left the EU, so if an institution is then subject to the ECJ, so be it and the UK has to accept that. If we don’t like that, we either set up our own parallel institution, or we do without.
- On the system of representation, I’m happy to be represented (i.e. that somebody is elected to analyse proposed legislation on my behalf), but both the UK and EU systems are flawed. I’ve mentioned before in this blog about different countries of the EU having more MEPs per capita, where, really, that level ought to be flat. Similarly, I’ve mentioned how we could reform the UK’s FPTP system – the one thing it was claimed to have going for it was that it gave a strong government, but even that is now clearly known to be nonsense. But I think that we need consensual politics rather than the adversarial politics we see at the moment. Every government should be a GNU.
- On general sovereignty, I think it is a red herring. Just, really in terms of… if you want to do a trade deal with X, then X will have certain specifications that must be conformed to. So, who’s calling the shots? I see sovereignty as pretty parallel- we’re all so interconnected that sovereignty is an illusion. I suppose you might argue that sovereignty is the ability to decide whether you trade with X or not, but unless you trade with somebody, you’re on skid row.
There’s obviously a lot of stuff I’ve left out here, but I suppose these are my “rules of thumb”.