Eurosceptics' faith in sovereignty ignores the tide of history

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The Independent Online
From Dr A. W. Nichol Sir: Charles Handy's article on federalism ("Nothing to fear from the F-word", 6 February) illustrates well the differences in interpretation that are likely to arise in applying that term to the future of Europe. He chooses five characteristics to illustrate the independence of the constituent state: many in Europe would follow his choices, others might choose ones that demonstrate the dominance of the central government.

To me, the archetypal federal constitution is that of the United States. Those of Canada and Australia also come to mind. They are characterised by having, as well as a federal legislature, a central federal executive, having substantial powers - exclusive powers in some areas - and the power to levy a major share of taxation. This executive is elected, and exercises its powers, without any reference to the governments of the constituent states. The nature of the debates on the ratification of the US constitution reinforces my view that such an executive is of the essence of a federal constitution.

I cannot see any of the present governments in Europe accepting such a transfer of power to a government in which they had no voice. Nor do I see how such an executive could grow from the present unelected Commission, nor which politician in Europe couldpresently stand for election to such a body in the expectation of any support outside his own country. Yet without such a Europe-wide political base, it is hard to see how such a federal government could long endure.

On such a view, a federal constitution for Europe is impracticable in the foreseeable future. Yet much could be done by increasing the extent to which the governments - and nations - agree to accept decisions taken jointly, whether unanimously or by substantial majority. The term federalism should be avoided, otherwise it is likely to become a source of misunderstanding, and a bogey cry for those who might better be described as Euro-wreckers than Eurosceptics.

Yours faithfully, A. W. Nichol Bournemouth 6 February