Tuesday, 21 June 2016

My email exchange with Michael Dougan

Dear Professor Dougan,

As someone leaning toward voting Leave in the upcoming referendum, I found the following lecture you gave on the EU quite compelling: 

The reason for my email is that I would like to ask you about an issue not dealt with in the video––which I personally see as the most important one in the debate––namely that we do not appear to face a choice between leaving and staying in the EU as it currently exists, but between leaving and staying in an EU which is moving toward further political integration. I am quite happy to acknowledge that our current membership of the EU is a net positive for the economy, or at the very least not a net negative. However, the real issue to me is not whether our current membership is a net positive for our economy, but whether our future membership will be a net positive for our society.

Is your view that a) the EU will not move toward further political integration in the future, or b) it will move toward further political integration in the future, and this will be good for the British people?

In this regard, I have written a blog post about why I believe a European federal state is not feasible in the near term, even though much deeper fiscal integration is required to make the Eurozone work:

Kind regards,

Noah Carl


Dear Noah

Thanks for your email. Without meaning any offence, the only people I ever hear talking about the EU becoming a federal (super)state are the people who hate the idea. No-one I know working in the field of the EU – and that is a very large number of people in all walks of life – ever thinks about it! And there are two reasons. First, Treaty changes – including of the sort that would be needed to “further integrate” the EU – require unanimous agreement by the 28 Member States followed by 28 national ratification processes. In the UK, that would almost certainly mean… another national referendum on the EU! After all, the European Union Act 2011 requires a national referendum in the UK for any future EU reform which would involve even the slightest increase in the competences of the EU at the expense of the UK. Secondly, the peoples of Europe clearly don’t want a federal superstate: can Leave name a single country that would support this (as opposed to some 1950s statements from a dead politician or the weird musings of some minor living one)?

Best wishes



Dear Michael,

Many thanks for getting back to me so quickly. No offence taken. However, I would make three points in response. 

First, many senior politicians in Europe seem to be in favour of a federal state, as evidenced by statements they have made (I have sources for all these quotes):

"We decided to arrive at a political union via an economic and currency union. We had the hope––and we still have it today––that the Euro will gradually bring about political union... Most member states are not yet fully prepared to accept the necessary constraints on national sovereignty. But trust me, the problem can be solved."
––Wolfgang Schäuble

"The internal market and the common currency demand joint co-ordinating action. This will require us to finally bury some erroneous ideas of national sovereignty... National sovereignty in foreign and security policy will soon prove itself to be a product of the imagination."
––Gerhard Schröder

"The Constitution is the capstone of a European Federal State."
––Guy Verhofstadt

"The EU Constitution is the birth certificate of the United States of Europe. The Constitution is not the end point of integration, but the framework for––as it says in the preamble––an ever closer union."
––Hans Martin Bury

"Of course there will be transfers of sovereignty. But would I be intelligent to draw the attention of public opinion to this fact?"
––Jean-Claude Juncker

"We need a political union, which means we must gradually cede powers to Europe and give Europe control... We cannot just stop because one or other doesn’t want to join in yet."
––Angela Merkel

Second, if a European federal state were not the ultimate end point, why does the EU have a motto, an anthem, a flag, an annual holiday, a mascot, and even a personification (the mythological figure Europa)?

Third, as I noted in the blog post I linked you to in my first email, much deeper fiscal integration is arguably needed to make the Eurozone work.

Kind regards,


1 comment:

  1. I think that the USA illustrates a transition. Power moves towards to center in accord with the legal rules, but at a certain point the legal rules stop mattering and the center just takes powers as crises and public opinion permit.

    I'm thinking particularly of the regulation of recreational drugs. In 1919 every-one was clear that giving the Federal Government power over alcohol required amending the constitution, and 1933 saw that power taken away. But 1933 also saw Federal prohibition of cannabis. There was no amendment, the central government just grabbed the power and SCOTUS upheld it. Also the drinking age is set at 21 via the highways act: you have an amendment shifting power from central government back to individual states, and it doesn't completely work, central government still holds on to power.

    I think we see this already happening in the EU with Greece getting bailed out despite a non-bailout rule in one of the treaties.