Rejection of EU Law

It was partly a rejection of EU law that led to Britain’s decision to leave the EU in a ‘Brexit’, as voters wanted to “take back control”.

The Leave campaign argued that Britain had surrendered some of its sovereignty to an “unelected bureaucracy” – as in the essay, EU Referendum: Michael Gove’s full statement on why he is backing Brexit, which asserted that “Laws which govern citizens in this country are decided by politicians from other nations who we never elected and can’t throw out”.

Gove’s argument for rejection of EU law sounds compelling as a soundbite, but there are circumstances where Britain either cannot or should not try to make its own decisions:

●  EU commissioners, who are appointed by the countries of origin but are not elected, propose new regulations to govern trade. These regulations can be agreed in committees as majority decisions, so it would be possible for some to be passed without Britain’s agreement (although this rarely happens).  Gove failed to point out that a British parliament could never set its own regulations for goods that are going to be exported to the EU; the receiving country would have no obligation to accept them.

●  It is unsafe to allow national governments to be the custodians of human rights. The main reason for joining the ECHR was to constrain all the signatories, as described above (3.5.4), and Britain signed up to it before joining the EU.  If one country unilaterally decides to persecute one of its minorities, the resulting ethnic conflict would be a risk to the inhabitants of that country and all its neighbours.  Human rights are enduring and should not be affected by the political ideology of any one government.

British politicians had decided in a previous generation, with the memory of the Second World War fresh in their minds, to subscribe to a set of rules that would help to keep the peace.  Sir Winston Churchill was included in the list of the EU Pioneers; he had seen all too closely the horrors of the Second World War and he advocated the creation of a European Union to avoid a repeat.

As described later, Britain’s decision to leave the EU was driven by domestic politics (  Many of those who voted to leave now regret their decision.


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This page is intended to form part of Edition 4 of the Patterns of Power series of books.  An archived copy of it is held at https://www.patternsofpower.org/edition04/5355a.htm.