With increasing desperation British Prime Minister David Cameron is campaigning against the “Brexit” referendum, the June 23 vote to determine whether the nation will stay in the European Union. It’s a campaign he should lose.
In one of his most controversial comments, Mr. Cameron said that the peace and stability of Europe could be threatened — that is, war could result — if Britain left the EU. Trying to answer the Brexit campaigners’ case that EU robs Britain of sovereignty, Mr. Cameron said, ‘If Britain were to leave the EU that might give you a feeling of sovereignty, but you’ve got to ask yourself is it real?”
Sovereignty is a fancy term for self-determination. Mr. Cameron’s remark meant that British sovereignty — within or outside the EU — is illusory. Political hyperbole is one thing. Outright falsehoods, such as the illusory sovereignty remark and the threat of war, are quite another.
Every EU member, including Britain, surrenders a large part of their sovereignty to the EU. On no subject is that more clear than on immigration, and on no other subject are many of the EU members’ citizens more angry at the self-aggrandizing EU political elite which is awash in political correctness.
Turkey is believed to be harboring as many as a million more Middle Eastern refugees and apparently is slowing — for the moment — their flow into Europe. But the fear that Turkey will open the taps and let another flood enter Europe, through Italy as well as Greece, has already toppled one EU government.
Earlier this month Austrian Chancellor Werner Faymann, fairly liberal on immigration, was forced to resign after his party lost the first round of presidential elections. Their opponents quickly passed a law restricting amnesty claims by immigrants and are proceeding to build an anti-immigrant fence along Austria’s alpine border with Italy.
Mr. Cameron’s claim that sovereignty outside the EU would be illusory runs aground on that and other facts, not the least of which is that the EU’s laws and courts frequently prevent Britain from deporting people known to be terrorists or have terrorist connections. (This month, Britain lost a 10-year battle to deport six Algerians tied to al Qaeda. In the past decade, more than 900 such deportations have been stopped by the EU).
The EU, flailing about for a solution to the refugee crisis, reached a tenuous agreement with Turkey’s Islamist President Recip Erdogan who is vying with Vladimir Putin for the title of Europe’s most dangerous strongman.
Under the agreement, Turkey is accepting the return of one Syrian refugee for each admitted to Europe. In return, Turkey is receiving billions of euros in aid and Turkish citizens are supposed to gain passport-free travel into and within the EU. The deal is likely to collapse soon because Turkey refuses to toughen its anti-terror laws and several EU members refuse to agree to passport-free travel for the Turks.
Mr. Erdogan, seeing the vulnerability of both German Chancellor Angela Merkel and the EU, has pushed Ms. Merkel into a historic sacrifice of German freedoms — meaning sovereignty — and morality. German comedian Jan Bohmermann wrote an insulting poem about Mr. Erdogan that was aired on a late-night television show. A quirk in German law enables Mr. Erdogan to sue Mr. Bohmermann for damages in a German court if the chancellor allowed the suit to proceed. Ms. Merkel, fearing Mr. Erdogan’s revoking the immigration deal, agreed and the suit is now proceeding on the grounds that Mr. Bohmermann insulted Mr. Erdogan.
Last week, attorneys for Mr. Erdogan asked the court for a preliminary injunction against the chairman of a huge German media company to stop an alleged “wave of insults” against Mr. Erdogan his company is allegedly airing. Ms. Merkel’s action has clearly surrendered German freedom of speech and freedom of the press to Mr. Erdogan’s control.
Last year, Ms. Merkel used Germany’s economic domination of Europe to leverage the EU and her nation to grant admission to over one million Middle Eastern refugees. But her policy was immediately rejected by many EU members such as Hungary that were invaded by masses of refugees. Border barriers and fences are the order of the day as Mr. Faymann’s ouster demonstrates.
Which brings us back to the Brexit vote. Britain has been facing its own immigration crisis for years, greatly exacerbated by EU laws and courts requiring that immigrants believed to be terrorists must be allowed to stay. Britain has, so far, resisted EU demands that it absorb its “fair share” of the Middle Eastern refugees that came into the EU last year. But that pressure is unremitting and the EU may force its decision on the British.
The EU lacks the economic and military power necessary to stop the flow of refugees. Britain, if it leaves the EU, would at least have the sovereign power to stop absorbing refugees if it chose to do so.
The EU’s dilution of British sovereignty will only get worse if expansion plans — which grudgingly include Turkey and may extend to include Russia — are made effective.
Treaties — like laws and sausages — are respected in inverse proportion to how much we know about what they contain. Other EU nations’ citizens, seeing the EU’s fecklessness on immigration, are viewing the coming Brexit vote with increasing jealousness. They may soon demand their own “exit” votes.
By exiting the EU, Britain will reclaim its sovereignty and provide momentum for an overdue revolt against the EU elites that have consolidated too much power in themselves, taking it from the voters — and governments — to whom it belongs.
• Jed Babbin served as a deputy undersecretary of defense in the George H.W. Bush administration. He is a senior fellow of the London Center for Policy Research and the author of five books including “In the Words of Our Enemies.”