The Spanish Parliament with the support of the EU has decided that Catalonia will not get a legal referendum on whether to stay in the Spanish state or become independent. The Crimea has just had a referendum which the EU condemns as illegal, and the Ukrainian state with the support of the EU failed to offer Crimea a legal one. The Crimea has left the Ukrainian union regardless, with the help of the Russian army. The EU is right that this was not done legally or by agreement, but maybe wrong to imply a majority of the Crimean population would have voted NO to the move in any legal referendum. Maybe Catalonia will now hold its own referendum, creating a clash between the Catalan and Spanish governments.
Scotland has been given a legal referendum on whether to stay in the UK or not. The EU does not seem to approve of that process very much, threatening Scotland if she dared to vote to be independent. All this implies the EU does not believe in the democratic self determination of people. They need to change their mind and be more accommodating, as do the European states who wrongly seek to block the free expression of opinion about identity within their current territories.
There is a paradox about the EU’s approach. In the earlier days of its long journey to superstatedom the EU seemed to encourage regional government and regional identities. It saw this movement as a way of weakening the member states from below, and claiming greater affinity to the people of the EU by identifying the EU more with the regional interests. As the EU has grown in power and taken more control over the member states, its enthusiasm for regional identity has waned where it looks like becoming a movement for new smaller independent states.
I believe in the democratic self determination of people. I am glad we are about to see what Scotland really wants. We should then accept the verdict and get on with implementing the consequences either way. Allowing a vote when there is a serious question to answer is an important part of democracy which the EU seeks to stifle. Continuous referenda on the same subject until one side gets its way, having lost in the past, is not such a good idea. Indeed, when the EU is forced into referenda that is their style: to keep on voting until they get the answer they want.
Member of UK Parliament for Wokingham
Chairman of the Conservative Economic Affairs Committee