The European Union (EU) was never meant to be a democracy. It is governed by unelected bureaucrats that cannot be removed by the people’s vote and therefore not accountable. Its ‘parliament’ does not have an opposition; its executive is accountable to nobody. In 1983, the Stuttgart Declaration confirmed its commitment to progress towards an ever closer union among the peoples and Member States of the European Community.
The EU evolved from the European Coal and Steel Community and the European Economic Community, formed by six countries in 1951 and 1958, respectively. It has grown in size by the accession of new member states, and in power by the addition of policy areas to its remit. The Maastricht Treaty converted the European Economic Community into the European Union in 1993; extended to the areas of foreign policy, military, criminal justice, and judicial cooperation, and introduced European citizenship. On June 23, 2016, Britain voted by referendum to leave the EU: Brexit.
The British have decided their own future. More people – 17,410,742 – voted Leave than have ever voted for anything in British history. The result, with its very high turnout, is decisive: Britons will make their own laws and choose their own neighbors.
Barack Obama intervened in the referendum campaign. He threatened that if Britain voted to leave the EU, it would have to go to the “back of the queue” as far as any trade agreements with America are concerned. This was bullying, and was not well-received by much of the British population, which had already been subjected to quite a lot of such bullying from others. Americans should not be pleased with it either, for Obama spoke not as a president with a few months left in office, but as a president-for-life, or at least one with the right to decide his successor’s policy.
The Leave campaign was assailed for scorning the advice of experts. Experts should, of course, be respected for their expertise. But no one is an expert where democracy is concerned. Each person is worth only one vote. It took enormous courage for the majority to refuse to be cowed by presidents and prime ministers, the BBC and the EU, economists and scientists, CEOs and bankers, archbishops and superstars, but it was not rash so to do. It was the mass assertion of a right which, over the years, Britain has been losing.
The modern British nation was founded on democratic self-government – parliamentary democracy. It is perhaps the most precious thing Britain offers to the world. It was slipping away from Britons. Now they have reclaimed it. The Vote Leave campaign began and ended with the slogan “Take Back Control.” The decision was about this – not “the economy versus immigration.” According to a survey by Lord Ashcroft Polls, 49 percent of leave voters said the biggest reason for exiting the EU was “that decisions about the UK should be taken in the UK.” Another 33 percent said it was the best way to regain power over Britain’s borders, and 13 percent said they worried Britain could not control how the EU “expanded its membership or its powers.”
The need for self-government overrode all other issues. Britain could not be a harmonious or free country so long as this was denied. The most powerful people in Britain felt the opposite, and they skillfully marginalized all discussion of the subject. Parliamentary democratic government mattered less to them than British “seat at the top table.” They regarded those that used the word “sovereignty” as deranged. Being pro-EU was a career requirement for people that aspired to political office or government service. Margaret Thatcher was the only leader who seriously challenged this, hence her career terminated. Prime Minister David Cameron’s reluctant capitulation to democracy for the referendum was due to his concern over losing his party base before the 2015 election.
The rise of parliamentary government in England encouraged and was sustained by reason and liberty. It spread from a couple of hundred thousand property-owners to the entire adult population. Contrary to the fears of the elites, this did not produce mob rule. The people chose their lawmakers peacefully and sent them to Parliament. From those chosen, a government was formed. When the people grew tired of those they had put in, they got rid of them and put in others.
Cameron decided that the Leave campaign’s strongest point was immigration, his was the economy, and made Britain choose between the two. He effectively admitted that he cannot control EU immigration, but said “it would be madness [to cut immigration] by leaving the single market and trashing our economy.”
Britain was already in the Common Market when the single one came along in the 1980s. Both apply to a free-trade area. “Common” means shared. “Single” means uniform. A common currency is voluntarily shared. A single currency permits no other. Hence the Euro, Eurozone and the Euro crisis. “Market” is the arrangement by which people freely buy and sell. So when the European Community combined the two words in the phrase “single market”, it did not create a market: it created a single control of that market. It imposed a single regulatory regime for trading standards on all member-states. That regime’s bosses are the European Commission, under the European Court of Justice.
Like most modern Western economies, Britain needs immigrants, and needs European markets. In both cases, Britons reclaimed their right to make their own decisions.
Since the arrival of the Romans, Britain has been accepting immigrants, often on a large scale. With the fall of the Roman Empire, Anglo-Saxons in the 5th century and Vikings in the 8th century migrated to Britain. In 1066, the Normans successfully took control of England and, in latter years, there were migrations from Europe. In the 19th century, immigration by people outside Europe began on a small scale as people arrived from the British colonies. This increased in the 20th century along with immigration from Europe.
England was not always tolerant of immigrants. It expelled Jews in 1290, in an era when anti-Semitism was rampant all over Europe. Tolerance for Jew increased significantly after the English Reformation, the series of events in 16th-century England by which the Church of England broke away from the authority of the Pope and the Roman Catholic Church. There was no Jewish community after the expulsion, but there were individuals who practiced Judaism secretly, until the rule of Oliver Cromwell when, in 1656, a small colony of Sephardic Jews living in London was identified and allowed to remain. Moreover, due to the lack of anti-Jewish violence in England in the 19th century, it acquired a reputation for religious tolerance and attracted significant Jewish immigrants from Eastern Europe. Furthermore, in the 1930s and 1940s, many European Jews fled to England to escape the Nazis. In 2015, British Jews, who are mostly left-wing, played a key role in clamoring for more Muslim immigrants from the Middle East.
In Britain of today, anti-Semitism is mostly from Muslims. Many recent attacks on Jews in Britain are committed by British Muslims. Some 2016 polls indicated that British Muslims are about four times more anti-Semitic than other Britons.
Leaving the EU has put Britain in charge of its own destiny and laws again — and restores its status as a sovereign nation. Britons can again have laws of their own making, and neighbors of their own choosing. According to the Commons Library of the UK Parliament, up to 60 per cent of British regulations originate from the EU and the 28-member Commission in Brussels — none of whom were elected.
Under EU regulations, there is no upper limit on migration and no proper control of British borders. More than three million EU migrants live in the UK — double the number in 2004 when the EU expanded to include Eastern European countries. According to official figures, net migration from EU countries to the UK is 184,000 a year. Cameron has never hit his target to reduce net migration to the tens of thousands — and most agree he never will if Britain had remained inside the EU. Under EU law, Britain must let in EU citizens regardless of their qualifications. So, businesses cannot get work permits for highly skilled or educated people from the US, Israel, Australia and elsewhere outside the EU. Now, every applicant could be treated on merit rather than on nationality. Britain could attract top talent and productive people, wherever they are from.
Under EU treaties, the UK Parliament is powerless to defend itself against the rulings of the European Court of Justice — which has interfered in everything from the price of beer to the right to deport terror suspects. The UK has lost three-quarters of the cases it has challenged since 1973. This makes a mockery of the idea that the UK’s Supreme Court is supreme. Thanks to EU diktats, some of the most evil killers, rapists and drug-dealers from the EU have been allowed to remain in Britain — because their right to free movement has been put ahead of keeping the British public safe.
The EU freedom of movement rules mean Britain cannot decide how many foreigners settle in the country — which means it is impossible to plan the necessary education, health, housing and transport requirements for them. This has led to intense pressures for people trying to get school placement for their children or a doctor’s appointment.
A vote to Remain would have represented an end to Britain’s 800 year experiment in restraining the government through consent, natural right, and popular will. When King John sealed the Magna Carta, he agreed that his decisions would have a degree of popular oversight, a degree that ebbed and flowed over the years until it was cemented in 1688 in the Glorious Revolution, that English people had rights which were not the grant of princes or parliaments. Those rights were discovered through the common law, rather than outlined in some document, even if many of them sprang from their formulation in that Great Charter. That experiment was under serious threat. Large amounts of the rules Britons live under were being made in Brussels by the Commission (not the European Parliament, which rubber stamps them) and are implemented under treaty obligations, not by discussions amongst parliamentary representatives. Thus, the EU is an alien institution to the way Britons have governed themselves, which led to the referendum.
Referenda are appropriate when fundamental constitutional questions are at stake, when sovereign power, mediated by constitutional structures, temporarily reverts to the people directly, so that they can modify or replace these structures. In reclaiming the right to govern themselves, Britons have done something of supreme value: Democracy should be stronger than bureaucracy. Democracy means government by the people through their elected officials. Britain’s vote for Brexit reaffirms that principle.
Israeli voters should take note. The system of parliamentary democracy – under which Israelis claim to live – is based on the idea that the choice of who governs is not a matter for unelected officials, but for the people governed. If the Knesset will not defend Israeli democracy, Israeli voters should demand a referendum to decide by whom they are ruled.
Dr. Sheyin-Stevens is a Registered Patent Attorney based in Florida, USA. He earned his Doctorate in Law from the University of Miami.