chapter  5
17 Pages

The British dilemma: Free trade and domestic parliamentary sovereignty against foreign supranational rule

A prominent position of intellectuals in public discourse, similar to that of France, does not exist in Great Britain. Correspondingly, there is also no similar tradition of intellectual dissent with ruling politics like that which prevails in France (Stuchtey 2006: 14). In spite of this, it is possible to identify a British intellectual class. Its members, however, do not appear as representatives of abstract ideas and general social criticism as their thought is largely marked by empiricism. The reluctance of the members of the intellectual class to identify themselves as intellectuals is expressed by their distaste for the prevalent continental tendency towards abstract theorization (Ash 2006). Consequently, intellectual discourse concerning the European project is different in Great Britain than, in particular, in France or Germany. It is concerned not with theories, but facts, and not with abstract questions, but with concrete problems of European integration and their effects on British politics and society. Examples of this are the loss of the national parliament’s sovereignty, the accession to the Economic and Monetary Union (EMU), the adoption of the euro and the loss of individual self-determination to European regulations. In questions regarding the design of the European single market, the advantages and disadvantages for the individual country occupy the place of greatest interest in Great Britain. Whereas the advantages of a European free trade area are welcomed, regulations from Brussels which exceed market creation are rejected as they are seen to be too far-reaching interventions into the economy in general, and into national interests specifically. Whereas the dominant position in the French discourse sees in the European single market an opportunity to tame global capitalism, the dominant position in the British intellectual discourse has recognized the European single market to be an opportunity to construct an economy better primed for international competition.