by Stuart Clark |
Misunderstandings, Misconceptions and Misinterpretations of Federalism, Sovereignty and Democracy are shaping the EU destiny.
Federalism is ultimately multilayer governance. It is a division of power and sovereignty. It’s success across the world is achieved because it creates separate areas of governance between areas of common interest and areas of local interest where they are different. It puts the decision-making process at the right level to make decisions for those affected, whilst keeping that decision making as close to the people where is makes sense. There are established types of federalism already in place, created to deal with the circumstances before them. Dual Federalism, Co-operative Federalism, Fiscal Federalism and New Federalism. For Federalism to work in Europe and Britain we must not be afraid to create new types of Federalism to deal with the complex needs before us. Using the US form of Federalism as a model will only work to a degree, and in my opinion will fail because it does not address the complex histories of European Nations. I would propose 2 new forms of Federalism. Nation State Federalism, and Nations within a State Federalism.
Sovereignty belongs to the people. A European Federation can only be successful if it is a federation of Independent Nation States, keeping their Independence and Sovereignty except in key areas of common interest, namely Foreign Policy, Defence, Trade Welfare and Human rights where Sovereignty is pooled/shared/increased, and a Federal state is created. The Federal State created to manage these areas would have supremacy over the nations within the Federation only in these areas and this would be bound by a Constitution, created and by all Nations within the federation.
Democracy and transparency are essential to successfully implementing Federalism in Britain and across Europe. This means that until we can implement good and fair systems of proportionally representative elections in Britain for all types of election we cannot begin our journey. We must strive to be a representative democracy where we elect politicians to represent us who will evaluate the legislation before them and make good judgments on our behalf.
Nation State Federalism:
This is a specific form of Federalism designed to accommodate the creation of a European Federation where the independent nations of Europe come together to create a supranational federal state to deal with specific areas of common interest, specifically in terms of a European Federation it would be to build on the work which was begun by the creation of the European Union but to reform it into a constituted Federation whereby the European Nations can retain their independence but better collaborate on areas of common interest. Namely Foreign Policy, Defence, Trade, Welfare and Human rights.
An example of how this would work would be in the creation of a European Armed Forces. National Armed forces would be incorporated but keep their independence, not to act on missions alone, but submission of national forces to the European forces or the participation of a national forces on specific European forces missions would be controlled by national governments. We already have this to a degree with EU forces and the Common Security and Defence Policy so this is nothing new and not specifically an EU Army. But an improvement on the current process providing the ability for European Nations speak as one and act more decisively.
Nations within a State Federalism:
This is a specific form of Federalism designed to accommodate turning the United Kingdom into a Federal State where the 4 components of the United Kingdom would gain a level of independence or autonomy as a country, region or province. It would mean the division of England into 9 regions (including the South West which would contain the nation of Cornwall) it would also contain the city state of London. This would mean these countries/regions/provinces/city state would gain a level of autonomy they desire but still be part of a single Federal State with a single Head of State.
The 3 Ms. Misunderstandings, Misconceptions and Misinterpretations.
The fundamental misunderstanding of Federalism that we see all the time, especially in the UK and France, about European Federalists is that Federalism is seen as a form of centralisation whereby independent nations are incorporated into a European Superstate. If explained well populations will understand that federalism always means better decisions are made at the appropriate level as close to the people concerning all those affected by the decisions.
One of the biggest Misconceptions about Federalism in Europe and Britain is that, if not explained well, is that it can be seen as creating bureaucracy where it’s not needed or centralising power where it’s not needed. But it is in fact the opposite. In the case of a European Federation the simplifying of regulations for trade and welfare from multiple sets of bureaucracy into a single set has enormous benefits. The creation of the Single Market has been the biggest success of the EU. And in Britain political decisions in reference to infrastructure and planning and control of budgets would be much better made closer to the people and away from Westminster.
It is in the populations of France and the United Kingdom who misinterpret aspects of Sovereignty and Federal governance perhaps because of their histories they are more suspicious and so need more attention and reassurance in its explanation. The term United States of Europe is also misinterpreted by many who use it. There are many clever scholars who wish to use the United States of America as a model which has many merits but there are many who misinterpret the term USE amongst those in favour and those against its creation. And so I say, whatever the merits of using the United States as a model. The language and terms used increase the risk of misunderstanding and misconception and so should be avoided.
Our Vision for the implementation of Federalism in Britain and across Europe:
There is a divide being created across Europe. In some ways it is a false divide of those who want a united Europe and those who supposedly don’t. Some are portraying the divide as being between Pro-Europeans and Nationalists, but this is creating a false dichotomy. There will always be a small percentage of people who wish to see Europe transformed into single European Nation and a small percentage of people who want to see the end of any kind of European identity and a return to the Independent European nations with no ties. Those views must be respected but most Europeans want both their European identity and their national identity. It is up to us to present a vision of a Europe that can accommodate both, close ties and cooperation in areas of common interest while retaining their national identity and autonomy.
To dispel the myths of Federalism and present federalists and problem solvers who recognise and respect the views of all citizens and want to create dialogue and debate, so we can work together as Europeans to face the challenges that we face in the world together instead of seeing each other as opponents because of Misunderstandings, Misconceptions and Misinterpretations.
My personal view:
I am not an academic and perhaps I am being naïve in my understanding of the potential of federalism to solve many of our problems. Perhaps my idea of a European Federation is not compatible with the classic construct of a Federation, but I feel Europe is so unique that it requires a unique solution.
For Britain I feel it is a much more obvious and straight forward solution. A federal Britain would run so much better, I feel time has been right for some time to have these discussions, and perhaps we have left it too late to save the Union.
We will see.
Stuart Clark, Editor, UK
Stuart Clark is currently, board member and Nominations officer for the Federalist Party
He was leader of the UK section of the European Federalist Party 2013-2016. He is active with Alliance Europa, and also the Federal Union in UK. As well as promoting Federalism, Stuart also campaigns for constitutional reform and electoral reform. He stood for Council Election in Lambeth in 2018. Stuart works for a global ticketing company and is based in London and Cornwall.