Preface by Professor Damian Chalmers, Professor of European Law, London School of Economics (LSE)
The debate about the Britain’s relationship with the European Union has historically been a choice between false alternatives.
One alternative is fatalism. The Union is too entrenched to change and too big to leave, so we have to bear with it. Furthermore, even to raise the possibility of change is dangerous. Its central policies with their inevitable winners and losers are cast as fundamental pillars of European integration, which are immutable and beyond democratic debate. To imagine other possibilities within the Union framework is condemned as unrealistic and to imagine alternatives beyond Union membership is seeking pariah status.
The other alternative is Nirvana. Nirvana is offered by those pleading for a little more integration. Greater powers will bring a promised land of increased riches. It is also offered even more stridently by some of those seeking exit from the Union. The United Kingdom will enter a world of splendid isolation where it is free to make any choices it wishes. And a world of infinite choices is a world of infinite possibilities.
However, the promise of Nirvana always disappoints. This world of splendid isolation gives no account of the relationship that the United Kingdom will have with the European Union or the legacy of its Union membership: both of which are likely to exert a significant presence for the foreseeable future.
The value of a referendum on United Kingdom membership is that it breaks this false choice. It allows us to think about institutional alternatives, be this as a member of the European Union or as a non-member. My preference (just) is to consider institutional alternatives for the United Kingdom within the European Union. I believe, however, more strongly that a wide array of alternatives need be put forward, which envisage the United Kingdom both within and outside the Union, if any referendum is not simply going to be on whether to ratify a diplomatic fait accompli.
For this reason, I am delighted to write this preface for David Campbell Bannerman’s important, timely and valuable contribution. It is the first contribution to think seriously and in detail about the legal framework that one would want for a United Kingdom outside the Union. It is, furthermore, written by somebody with extensive knowledge of both European Union affairs and, importantly, its relationships with European States which are not members of the European Union. Importantly, he recognises these as templates, but as nothing more. Economically and demographically, a United Kingdom-EU arrangement would dwarf these, and should not, thus, be conceived in the same way.
The EEA Lite Agreement proposed by him is thus legally feasible. It parallels many aspects of the EEA Agreement in terms of institutions and relationships but contains fundamental differences in terms of its treatment of the EU acquis and free movement of persons.
Campbell Bannerman’s book rightly implies that the choice about organisational membership camouflages a more fundamental choice, namely the style of society we wish. The choice should inform the burdens assumed by the United Kingdom if we remain within the European Union. It should also guide our relations with the European Union if we leave.
If, coming from differing parts of the political spectrum, his and my views differ on some aspects, the central assumptions behind his vision are ones with which I, and I suspect, many British citizens agree. The United Kingdom should be an open and liberal society. All policies governing it should be subject to democratic contestation and constitutional controls within the United Kingdom. There should be positive, generous, and wide-ranging political engagement between the United Kingdom and other governments and international organisations. The challenge for all of us is to think the ends and means for realising this in the best way possible. This book pushes the debate forward on this.
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