David Cameron, the UK’s current inhabitant of No. 10 Downing Street, has proposed letting the Queen’s subjects vote on whether to continue their attachment to the European Union…..or secede. About a third of our tea-drinking friends across the pond believe that their membership in the EU isn’t working out. Cameron has proposed letting the Brits vote on continued membership in the EU, but only after the next parliamentary election, which is set for 2015. If the Conservative Party wins, Cameron says he’ll put the vote to the people. Aside from the amusing manner in which the Brits carry out their politics (Prime Minister’s Question Time is the best “show” on cable, with better writers than Downton Abbey), there is a more interesting question at hand that rarely gets mentioned in polite company.
As in our own nation’s history, nobody thought to ask the million Euro question when the EU was formed: can a country leave the EU after they join? In all my reading of the debates over the ratification of our constitution, I have yet to find a single source or critic who posed this question. There was a certain assumption, and I’m being generous here, that either the Union was perpetual, or that states could come and go as they pleased. The reality is that both views were probably present, but not discussed, in the ratification debates that followed the Philadelphia convention. Less than a hundred years later, the lack of constitutional clarity resolved itself with the South seceding from the Union. The North provided an effective rejoinder by defeating the Southern secessionists, hence providing the definitive answer on that question for us Americans.
Now it’s the Europeans’ turn. No one believes that the Secession Movement in England would require military action, but already the Europeans are furious that John Bull is thinking about saying “Cheerio.” The Brits maintain they have a need to protect not only their sovereignty, but also their valued currency. Having joined the EU somewhat half-heartedly, the Brits never parted with their precious pound, and never adopted the Euro. The currency issue is a matter of national pride and has become somewhat of a cause among secession advocates. I have visions of some guy in Regency attire on Speakers’ Corner pontificating about English liberty and the “preservation of institutions necessary for the English way of life.” Hear, hear.
There is a legal authority here. The EU constitution was amended just a few short years ago to allow for the exit of a member “in accordance with its own constitutional requirements,” but nobody seems to know what this means, or how it works. It sounds a little like no-fault divorce. The difference is that in such divorce cases, the troubled couple usually divide up the assets. In the case of England leaving the EU, the Brits keep the house, the car, the china, and the family dog. All the Europeans get is a sense of being jilted. And as Shakespeare says, there’s the rub: the Europeans need the Brits more than the reverse.
What much of this comes down to is the fact that socialism as a form of government doesn’t work well, at least not for very long. The fiascoes of Greece and Spain are indicators of worse things to come if the EU doesn’t change its ways, and the Brits are fearful of being pulled down if the House of Cards crumbles. Leaving the EU would be one way to protect the interest of the British people. What an interesting world we live in when the once formidable British empire starts talking secession for the preservation of its life, liberty, and happiness.
The world turned upside down.