Posts Tagged ‘federalism’
Prime Minister David Cameron said Wednesday he will offer British citizens a vote on whether to leave the European Union if his party wins the next election, a move which could trigger alarm among fellow member states.
He acknowledged that public disillusionment with the EU is “at an all-time high,” using a long-awaited speech in central London to say that the terms of Britain’s membership in the bloc should be revised and the country’s citizens should have a say.
Cameron proposed Wednesday that his Conservative Party renegotiate the U.K.’s relationship with the European Union if it wins the next general election, expected in 2015.
“Once that new settlement has been negotiated, we will give the British people a referendum with a very simple in or out choice to stay in the EU on these new terms. Or come out altogether,” Cameron said. “It will be an in-out referendum.”
[. . .] Cameron stressed that his first priority is renegotiating the EU treaty — not leaving the bloc.
“I say to our European partners, frustrated as some of them no doubt are by Britain’s attitude: work with us on this,” he said.
Much of the criticism directed at Cameron has accused him of trying an “a la carte” approach to membership in the bloc and seeking to play by some but not all of its rules.
Speaking as a Canadian familiar with Québec’s intermittent flirtation with the idea of separatism, I’ve a few things to point out.
- Much of British history towards political Europe is ill-informed. One thing that frequently comes up in Euroskeptic discourse is a hostility towards the European Court of Human Rights, a supranational legal institution associated not with the European Union but with the entirely separate Council of Europe. Too much critical detail goes unnoticed, or unknown.
- Much like Québec separatists who confidently assume that after a “Oui” majority in a referendum the province could negotiate whatever arrangement it would like with a rump Canada, even a nominally pro-European Union politician like David Cameron seems to be making the mistake of assuming that a threat of separation will lead Britain’s European partners to make whatever changes the British government might want. I’m very skeptical of this. Perhaps more likely is a complete breakdown of the federation–in their own ways, the Soviet Union, Czechoslovakia, and Yugoslavia came apart when this brinkmanship occurred.
- Many British Euroskeptics also seem to believe that, if the United Kingdom left the European Union, not only the United States but the entire Commonwealth would welcome the erstwhile founder of the Anglo-Saxon world. I can speak only for Canada, but there is no body of radically pro-Commonwealth sentiment in Canada. Canadian identity is no longer bound up with the Commonwealth in the way it was a half-century ago. If anything, British departure from the European Union would make the United Kingdom a less desirable partner relative to other European countries of a similar size.
- British departure from the European Union would be a catastrophe for the country. Unless a non-EU United Kingdom follows the lead of Switzerland and Norway in accepting European Union regulations while lacking any voice in formulating them, the United Kingdom will be outside of the various markets. What will happen to, among other things, Britain’s financial sector? (Frankfurt and Dublin will do nicely.)
- I can’t help but wonder what the consequences for Scotland might be if Britain departed. Could we get a Scottish separatism invigorated by the desire to remain in, or return to, the European Union?
Facebook’s Mike linked to Jen Gerson’s National Post intervieww with Prince Edward Island premier Robert Ghiz. Unsurprisingly, Ghiz–like the vast majority of other Islanders–is uninterested in the idea of Maritime Union, that is, the unification of the three Canadian Maritime provinces (Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island) into a single unit.
It seems to have captured a bit of interest, but it seems safe to say you are very much opposed to combining the Maritime provinces, yes?
From my perspective right now, we’re very fortunate that we have three provinces. That gives us more clout when it comes to dealing with the feds, or dealing with other provinces. The arguments that are being made for it, I think if [the senators] did a little research they’d realize that there is a lot of co-operation that takes place amongst the Maritime provinces.
For example, we don’t have our own lottery commissions in each province. We have what we call the Atlantic Lottery Corporation. In the Maritimes, we have an institution that deals with issues around post-secondary education. We do a lot of procurement together when it comes to purchasing things. So there already is a lot of co-operation. I think it’s counterintuitive to what the Senate is actually supposed to be there for, which is to defend the interests of the regions that they’re appointed from.
Do you think there’s something to the argument that if the provinces did unite there would be fewer jobs for premiers like your good self?
Let me just put it to you like this, if this were ever to go ahead, it would take years upon years to put something in place. I’m not going to be around in 10 or 15 years anyway as Premier, most likely, so it’s irrelevant to the job that I have.
Your province obviously does have a disproportionately large representation in Parliament. It would hurt your representation if you were to meld with the other provinces, wouldn’t it?
Absolutely. Right now we have four members of Parliament, we have four senators. This goes back to the 1864 conference, the 1867 formation of the country, the joining of Prince Edward Island to Canada in 1873. If [P.E.I. Senator Mike Duffy] or the other senators, who are from the respective provinces of Nova Scotia and New Brunswick, think that it is a good idea, I think perhaps they should consider stepping down from the Senate, running for provincial politics and putting that at the top of their agenda.
One political scientist interviewed by CBC was right to note that the topic of Maritime Union is only raised whenever there’s a perceived state of crisis.
Donald Savoie, Canada research chair in public administration at the University of Moncton, said the fiscal challenges facing the Maritime provinces and an aging population are what have brought the idea to the floor once again.
He said the three provinces are all stomaching immense financial pressures and the concept of the Maritime Union “is in fashion.”
“Whenever there’s an external force that threatens us in the Maritimes, we tend to talk about the Maritime Union,” said Savoie, noting that he has supported the idea for years.
“What we’re witnessing all through the Maritime provinces is some pretty serious fiscal challenges and some pretty serious economic challenges. We have a fast-aging population, and I don’t think we have the financial resources to maintain the status quo.”
At this stage, however, the fiscal crisis isn’t nearly severe enough to overcome particularly sentiments. Speaking particularly about my native Prince Edward Island, almost everyone is invested in the island having the status of a full-fledged province, whether as a deeply-felt expression of identity or materially. (The infrastructure of provincehood employs a lot of people.) I doubt many Islanders at all would like the fair island by the sea to be little more than a larger version of Ontario’s Prince Edward County.