by Christie Masters
With the recent and surprising vote by the citizens of Britain to leave the European Union, it brings to mind the powerful first passage of the Declaration of Independence. This may seem cheeky, to bring up the very document that declared the independence of the American Colonies from England in 1776, but it applies to their current struggle and should encourage all Americans to show the people of the United Kingdom our love and support through this difficult time. The opening passage of the Declaration of Independence is as timeless as it is profound;
“When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.”
The words in this passage were written with reference to the universality of the rights of mankind. The “Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God” encompass the human race as a whole. Yet, the passage begins with reference to “one people,” which speaks of sovereignty. It is sovereignty, the authority that a nation has to govern itself, and the ability to choose as a People, the laws with which one is governed, that motivates the desire to “dissolve the political bands” that tie them to another. It is reflective to the unity and patriotism felt by the American founding generation, but also to the ancient ties of a people to their country. The people of Great Britain have chosen to end their subjection to the collective rule of the European Union.
While the EU began by European countries making an effort to trade and work together, with the hope that countries who do so would be less likely to go to war with one another, it has grown to be more like a single country, with its member nations becoming more like states. There is a “single market” where people, goods and money are free to move among the member countries as if they were one country. This also requires common laws to govern the union. The problem is twofold; some laws may be beneficial, while others made by unelected officials in Brussels, would give the people of Great Britain cause vote the way that they have.
The recent immigration crisis in Europe, which reaches around the world to America, is a cause of frustration for many countries, and a motivating factor in “Brexit.” The basics of a sovereign nation would be to control its borders, to monitor and limit if they must, the amount of people allowed to immigrate. The European Union touts “free movement” as one of its benefits. There are no passports necessary for members of the EU, and as mentioned above, people are free to move from one country to the next without impediment. It is easy to see that this has become a serious problem for member countries, especially with the refugee crisis, but also because citizenship is a basic building block of nation. When citizenship becomes open, does a nation cease to exist in its essence? It is certainly a concession of authority, and the people of Britain have made a monumental effort to claim it back.
Those in the UK who voted for the exit from the European Union also were motivated by economic factors. The EU has its own currency, and its own parliament which sets rules for the member countries. These rules not only apply to the economy, but to transport, the environment, and consumer rights. Imagine if the citizens of the United States were subject to laws passed by a parliament located in another country. Some laws, like we have discussed, may be beneficial, but the very fact that these laws would not be voted on by the People of the U.S., would completely undermine our “government for the people, by the people” and our nation would cease in its present form.
Let us recognize that the United Kingdom is attempting to reestablish its boundaries of citizenship and laws, and we must stand with them. Not just as Americans, but as a people that understands the basic human importance of liberty, justice, citizenship, and the ability of a nation to apply and safeguard its principles. This is the sovereignty that must be jealously held firm because it protects the people who call it home.