National independence movements are on the rise across Europe. From Scotland to Spain – as the European Union’s stranglehold hardens, demands for sovereignty are becoming even more vocal.
In Scotland, a 300-year-old Union is under threat, as cession from the United Kingdom is seriously contemplated. In Spain, one million Catalonians marched against rule from Madrid. Even in Germany, the EU’s most committed member, a Eurosceptic movement is brewing: the small ‘Alternative für Deutschland’ party recently won over ten percent of the vote in regional elections in Thuringia and Brandenburg and enjoys ever growing support.
These movements may seem disparate and unconnected, but they are in fact part of a wider tapestry of nation-state breakdown, sharing many features with our campaign to pluck Britain out of the EU. They are about groups of people who feel as though politics is no longer about them, but is done to them – at great istance.
Power is exercised above their heads by institutions that they do not recognise as legitimate. The only solution seems to be a vast transfer of power from the centre to the periphery – whether you call it ‘devo-max’ or ‘repatriation’ – the principle is the same.
So what lessons can Euro-sceptic take from the campaign for Scottish independence? Firstly, we need a referendum before any renegotiation and not afterwards. David Cameron’s approach to Scotland is at odds with his EU referendum promise.
The Prime Minister fought to get extra powers for Edinburgh off the ballot paper. Cameron was adamant; it was to be an In/Out referendum, no third options. No conditions to their vote; no renegotiated terms for the Scottish people to vote on, just a solemn promise to respect the outcome.
It was only the fear of losing such a vote that held the British establishment’s feet to the fire. Why would it not play out the same way with Brussels?
Alan Murad is writing for the campaign group Get Britain Out