Michael Lothian, a Conservative party member of Britain’s House of Lords, sees a fundamental contradiction in the European Union’s demand for more power, which is always masked under the benign-sounding rubric of “shared sovereignty” among the 27 member nations.
“I always say that sovereignty shared is sovereignty lost,” Mr. Lothian quipped Tuesday at a think-tank briefing in Washington, after discussing what he sees as a shaky future for the EU.
The union is still reeling from the financial crisis that required hundreds of billions of dollars in bailout packages to rescue fiscally reckless member nations. France and Germany have complained about having to finance much of the aid.
Unemployment remains high in many EU countries, and some wealthier nations are straining under the stress of migration from poorer ones.
Now, Britain is demanding a restructure of the massive bureaucratic machine headquartered in Brussels, as Prime Minister David Cameron prepares a major speech on Britain’s future in the union to be delivered Friday in the Netherlands.
The United States also has expressed alarm. Philip Gordon, assistant secretary of state for Europe, visited London last week to urge Britain to remain in the EU. He called Britain’s membership in the EU “essential and critical for the United States.”
None of this tension surprises Mr. Lothian.
As a former member of the House of Commons and now in the upper chamber of Parliament, he has been warning for years about the EU’s growing power and unwieldy bureaucracy. He questions the expanding role of an alliance that began as a free-trade group in 1952 and grew into something resembling a “United States of Europe.”
“You may say I’m chauvinistic,” he told an audience at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars. “My grandmother was Italian, and when I am in Italy, I feel very Italian. When I’m in Britain, I feel very British. But I do not feel ‘European.’”
The advocates of an EU with more powers centered in Brussels have failed, he said.
“Europe is a series of different countries with different histories and different cultures,” Mr. Lothian said. “We’re never going to place our hand on our heart and salute the European flag.”
The bright blue flag with a circle of 12 gold stars has not changed since 1986, when the EU had only 12 members.
Now some EU nations have become overwhelmed by internal migration, with EU citizens moving freely among 27 countries.
Mr. Lothian noted that Britain expected about 15,000 Poles to move to the United Kingdom after Poland joined the union in 2004.
“We stopped counting at 500,000,” he said.
As Britain’s economy weakened and Poland’s strengthened, much of that migration reversed itself.
Mr. Lothian said he expects Mr. Cameron on Friday to make a strong case for the EU to relinquish some of the powers it has gained at the expense of national sovereignty.
“You have to fundamentally look at Europe,” he said, calling for a “new vision” for the EU with more powers returned to the member states. “We need to build a Europe that is sustainable in the future.”
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