Is this what 'taking back control' looks like?
“Sovereignty”: the stand-out term of the Vote Leave campaign; the big Brexit buzzword over which our relationship with the EU was so heavily criticised.
The Vote Leave camp declared that for too long, our membership of the EU had imperilled the UK’s sovereignty, detracting from our decision-making and democracy. ‘The irrefutable fact,’ said the Daily Mail back in 2016 ‘is that the EU is ruled by a secretive, unelected commission, whose diktats are backed by a court able to override elected democracies.’
And so it was. “Sovereignty”, used as a stand-in for ideas of autonomy, independence and traditionalism, became ours for the taking, as long as we did the brave thing and committed to leaving the EU.
Sovereignty is hard to define, especially considering the myriad ways the word has been used with reference to Brexit. Put simply, it refers to the ability of a state to make its own laws. The UK can largely do this, even as a part of the EU, but it cannot contravene any EU laws or treaties in favour of national law.
But this should never really have been such a bone of contention. Every country in the world has to cooperate with others in order to have a functioning economy, strong security and allies. This sometimes means making compromises, or acting in the interests of another nation, rather than just your own.
So, even outside of the EU, the UK will naturally be subject to several other treaties and agreements, and will have to make many more if it wants to keep trade disruption to a minimum. It is amusing to see Brexiteers run into the arms of ‘WTO rules’. We are ’escaping’ British-European rules for largely American ones.
Now the many trade deals Johnson and co hope to strike will each involve compromises – not all bad. But when compromise comes in the form of kowtowing to a jingoistic, semi-literate racist, then you know you’ve got yourself into a bit of a ‘covfefe’.
As Boris Johnson talks up a free trade deal with the US, the likelihood of the UK being able to truly self-govern slips away. The US has already used promises of this deal as a means to exert pressure on the UK. Why else would Boris have failed to defend previous ambassador to the US Sir Kim Darroch after Darroch’s criticism of Trump was leaked?
It comes as no surprise that the head of America’s farming lobby has said the UK must accept the US’ alarmingly low food standards as part of any future trade deal with Washington.
And what about the US’s threats of withholding a trade deal if the UK decides to tax the British earnings of tech giants such as Facebook and Google? We haven’t even left the EU, but the US is already staking claims on our future action. It isn’t sovereignty when one nation is too isolated to stand up to its aggressive ally; it’s an abusive relationship.
And let’s not forget how perilously close the US could push us to war with Iran. Let’s not forget the role the US is currently playing in inflaming tensions in Palestinian heartlands. Let’s not forget that the US is a country which is currently overturning women’s rights to abortion, where the president can tell four Americans of colour to go back to where they came from, and where healthcare is a privilege, not a right.
Do we really want to become dependent on that?
Maybe there is hope. The UK has overruled US concerns and decided to release an Iranian tanker which had been held in Gibraltar for a month. But who knows what might happen next? It just goes without saying that if we are frightened into a free-trade deal with the US, we’re unlikely to be very free at all.
Maheen Behrana is a writer and is an editor at BBench.co.uk
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