Boris Johnson is mistaken sovereignty is relative in the 21st century

Boris Johnson is mistaken sovereignty is relative in the 21st century

Brexit: Johnson and Gove Take a Stand for British Sovereignty

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Today, the anticipation of Boris Johnson’s stance on the upcoming EU referendum has reached a fever pitch. At 3:30pm, the BBC confirmed what had been speculated – London’s popular mayor would back Brexit. While this is a blow to the In campaign, as Johnson is a highly influential figure, it is not as detrimental as some fervent Eurosceptics may claim. This announcement positions Johnson to potentially run for the Conservative leadership in the event of a Brexit vote and, possibly, even if the referendum is unsuccessful. However, despite his self-interest, Johnson’s support for Brexit may not be entirely insincere. Throughout this campaign, he has consistently raised concerns about EU membership infringing upon British sovereignty, and this objection is likely to be his focus in the coming days.

Johnson’s alignment with Justice Secretary Michael Gove solidifies their joint campaign for Brexit. Gove, in his 1,500-word statement declaring support for leaving the EU, emphasized the importance of national self-rule. The decisions that shape people’s lives, according to Gove, should only be made by elected leaders who can be held accountable by the people they represent. This strain of Euroscepticism deserves attention as it comes from the more thoughtful and liberal wing of the movement, with Gove being a prime example. It will play a prominent role in the debates leading up to June 23rd, especially given Johnson’s newly acquired status as a face of the Leave campaign.

The Johnson-Gove argument rests on the idea that Britain’s long-standing tradition of liberty and representative democracy, dating back to Magna Carta, sets it apart from many continental countries. The duo emphasizes the importance of accountability and ensuring that power ultimately rests with leaders chosen by the British people. They argue that the EU, being accountable to both Britons and foreigners, undermines this sacred bond.

Yet, this argument overlooks the realistic nature of sovereignty in today’s interconnected world. Sovereignty is no longer an absolute concept; it is relative. A country that refuses to pool authority has little control over various global issues, such as pollution, financial regulations, trade norms, and security concerns. Living in a globalized world means acknowledging that many laws are international and cannot be escaped. By this definition, North Korea could be considered the most sovereign country, as it experiences minimal mutual interference. In reality, however, countries must make choices, often unpleasant, between pooled sovereignty and none at all.

This is precisely why Norway and Switzerland, often cited as models for a post-Brexit Britain, fail to uphold the argument for heightened sovereignty. Johnson and Gove argue that these countries are significantly more sovereign than Britain, yet in practice, they find their economies and societies intertwined with those of their neighbors, forcing them to accept rules and regulations over which they have no say. This false choice between pure sovereignty and pooled sovereignty overlooks the interdependence of nations in today’s world.

Furthermore, the idea that Britain is a united and distinct civic unit with a shared sense of identity, allowing for democratic legitimacy, needs reevaluation. The media landscape is evolving, and people no longer rely solely on national channels for information. Political polarization is growing along cultural lines, and disintegrated sub-national allegiances are becoming more significant. While power exercised at a national level may still be arguably more democratically valid than at a supra-national level, with each passing year, this case becomes less compelling.

The claim that foreigners impose their will on Britain’s elected government is often accompanied by a patriotic sentiment, asserting that as a powerful and independent nation, Britain deserves its autonomy back. However, if Britain is indeed as strong as Eurosceptics maintain, it should embrace the trade-off between foreign influence over its population of 64 million and its consequential influence over a union of more than 500 million. The country possesses various strengths, including a robust diplomatic service, global alliances, a common language, and historical significance. These factors position Britain to exercise leadership within the EU when it commits to such a task. The fear of foreign bullies should not hinder the country’s ability to maximize its sovereignty within an interconnected and integrated 21st century world.

In conclusion, Johnson and Gove’s support for Brexit highlights their concerns about EU membership eroding British sovereignty. While their arguments about accountability and national self-rule hold some validity, they fail to acknowledge the relative nature of sovereignty in today’s world. Furthermore, the notion of a united and distinct British identity deserving exclusive decision-making rights needs reevaluation. By focusing on fear and patriotism, Eurosceptics divert attention from the potential benefits of pooled sovereignty within a globalized community. To maximize its sovereignty, Britain should embrace its strengths and play a leading role within the EU.