When you listen to the Remain campaign talk about sovereignty you would be forgiven for thinking it was some abstract 18th Century notion. Indeed the speed with which the In camp dismiss any argument that involves the concept is perhaps a symptom of a wider problem within this debate. Is it simply that Remain do not understand what sovereignty is? Do they genuinely believe that it is something that has long since been borne into irrelevance?
If it is merely ignorance that results in their swift dismissal of sovereignty as merely a notion, then I would urge them to perhaps do a quick Google search and reassess their position. Sovereignty is not some abstract 18th Century notion, irrelevant to a debate about 21st Century Britain. It is true that it is a concept from the 18th Century, indeed it is one which comes from the very founding of modern democracy – sovereignty is at the very heart of what it is to be a democracy.
To sum it up in a single word: sovereignty is power – it is about where the power in a democracy is wielded. Does that power lie with an unelected body, is it wielded by some powerful elite, or does it come from the people whom it governs? What we are discussing in the Brexit debate is power over the legislation and regulations which affect our day-to-day lives. When we debate sovereignty in the European Union’s system of governance, we are debating where our legislation is proposed and drafted. That power rests with the European Commission as the only body with formal power to propose legislation.
What that means is that power is held by a body we cannot elect, cannot hold to account, and cannot vote out. ‘Pooled sovereignty’ is the justification Remain often give to the European Union system – this idea that every member state’s government gives up a little sovereignty to an unelected body to make decisions for them. The power of you and I to influence the laws of our country only exists where power to draft and propose legislation rests with a body that you and I can elect. When the Remain camp talk about ‘pooled sovereignty’, what they mean is less power for the British electorate. If we want a democracy where we can influence the decisions that affect us, then we have to return that power to our elected Parliament.
Sovereignty is far more than some outdated notion. However much the Remain campaign want us to believe that sovereignty is something insignificant, it represents part of the underlying foundations of a liberal democracy. Sovereignty is power – it is no more an abstract 18th Century concept than democracy itself is. Democracy is inherently based on sovereignty – indeed it has always been the concern of the proponents of democracy that power should be wielded exclusively by the people. Not by some unseen elite, not by some unelected body of bureaucrats, but by a government of the people, by the people, for the people.
Where we give away our sovereignty, we give away our democracy. Where we willingly give up the power to elect the people who make our legislation, we turn our backs on the true democratic systems and processes that generations of liberals have fought to create.
On June 23rd we have the chance to restore power to the electorate of the United Kingdom – it’s a chance we cannot allow to pass.