Authoritative sources in the EU debate are thin on the ground, so I was pleased when a colleague pointed me to a video by University of Liverpool Law School’s Professor Michael Dougan, a leading expert in EU law. It runs 25 minutes and is well worth the time. I've transcribed a couple of segments below.
I've just watched with increasing dismay as this referendum debate has unfolded, and though I have to say the Remain side has not covered themselves in glory at points with their use of dodgy statistics, I think the Leave campaign has degenerated into dishonesty, really, on an industrial scale --- there's really no other way to put it ... For someone who works in the field like I do, it's probably the equivalent of an evolutionary biologist listening to a bunch of creationists tell the public that creation theory is right and evolution is completely wrong. It really is that bad ... and yet it's working.
The second idea I think which has become pervasive is that somehow this is a debate about us and them. The EU is somebody else, and we are somehow the pathetic victims of Brussels as if this country was incapable of looking after itself. To an EU lawyer, indeed to anyone who works in the field, this is just absolutely bizarre. ... In the field we refer to The Big Three, the UK, France, and Germany, because between them the UK, France, and Germany provide the EU with its political, its economic, its diplomatic leadership. And indeed, virtually nothing happens in the EU without the big three being in control of it. The UK, to put it simply, has enormous influence within the EU. It sets agendas, it negotiates alliances, it builds and brokers compromises. ... Remember, the EU is not run by the unelected eurocrats of the commission as we hear all the time, it's actually run by the 28 governments of the council working together with the European Parliament. Despite the fact that majority voting is the normal rule within the council, in practice about 90% of EU decisions are still taken by consensus. In other words, the member states negotiate until everyone feels basically happy with the decision. And it couldn't be otherwise. The EU is the creation of its member states, it has to serve their basic national interests, and it does so through a process of compromise and negotiation. So the EU isn't someone else, it's not something that happens to us, we are major players, leading players, within the European Union.Here's to an informed debate!