During the whole in/out of the European Union debate the question of sovereignty has repeatedly raised its head, but what does it mean and why is it so important? It is a word that seems to be self-fulfilling in that sovereignty is the ‘Supremacy of authority or rule as exercised by a sovereign or sovereign state.’ Sovereignty is the application of sovereignty.
But what is a sovereign state? In international law, it is a political entity that is represented by one centralized government that has sovereignty over a geographic area. A sovereign state is one that has sovereignty. This doesn’t seem to be getting us very far yet it is a concept that most people will understand.
Most people will recognise that France and Spain are sovereign states but what about the United Kingdom. Are England, Scotland and Wales sovereign or only as a collective?
The question for me is who decides what constitutes a state? They vary enormously with the biggest having nearly two billion people and the smallest a few thousand. What is the formula?
The number of people who have a choice in these matters is very small indeed. The harsh truth is that states are decided by the sword or by marriage. Nation states and statehood have been forced upon people by being invaded, being given away as a dowry or through political or royal decree. Nobody can choose where they are born and changing your nationality requires a lot of energy and determination. Even then you may not be accepted, depending upon the rules of your proposed adopted nation.
Sure, this is the way things are but they have not always been. There was a time when states did not exist and people were free to wander as far as their legs would take them.
What then is so good about taking back sovereignty? How will replacing one set of people who make the rules with another be better than what you had? Why is a London Parliament better than one in Brussels, or Washington or even Beijing?
I am a strong believer in democracy and self-determination but don’t be fooled by the sovereignty argument. None of us had any say in determining where the seat of power in this country lies. For many of us, in part due to our electoral system, Westminster is no more relevant than any other law making authority.