A 'Brexit' to sovereignty
© Getty Images

An imbroglio erupted this past week when a British tabloid, The Sun, published a story that in 2011, Queen Elizabeth II let loose on one of her ministers with a torrent of Euroskeptic sentiment. The timing of this story is interesting, as the U.K. will hold a referendum on June 23 to determine whether or not the British people want to leave the European Union.

ADVERTISEMENT

Her Majesty's robust position of public political neutrality renders this anecdote unlikely. However, it is not unrealistic to imagine that, if Queen Elizabeth, the U.K.'s greatest champion and diplomat, does hold a position on "Brexit," it would almost certainly favor preserving and protecting Britain's sovereignty, not to mention its safety and security.

Moreover, as Americans, the Brexit debate should be top of mind, because as former Ambassador to the U.N. John Bolton noted recently in an op-ed in The Telegraph, "The United States needs strong European allies, of which Britain has been and should remain the most important. We enjoy independence — you should resume yours."

With EU member states such as Greece and France flagging economically, and with Germany's (and others') disastrous refugee experience, Europe is failing while the UK remains strong. It follows that the U.K. should act in its own best interests and make a hasty exit from the sinking EU ship while it can. However, many in the U.K., including Prime Minister David Cameron, would like to remain in the EU, citing a panoply of disasters ranging from isolation to compromised security to unbearable transfer costs in the event of a Brexit.

Ultimately, three of the most important threats to British sovereignty involve courts, defense and immigration.

The ever-expanding roll of rulings by the activist European Court on Human Rights (ECHR) judges in Strasbourg, France is alarming. A notable example is the effort by the court to prevent life sentencing of violent criminals and murderers. In 1965, Britain abolished the death penalty, instead imposing a life sentence rule for extremely violent criminals. However, in a landmark 2013 case, the ECHR ruled that life sentences without parole amount to (in their view) intolerable punishment and violate the European Commission on Human Rights, notwithstanding that some of these life-sentence convicts committed murder.

It is preposterous that anyone but the British courts should make decisions about British law, especially when it affects the safety of Britons. The ECHR has even pressed the U.K. to offer prisoners the right to vote. Many of the U.K.'s most powerful judges have expressed alarm at the judicial overreach by the EU courts and with good reason.

Britain having the authority to make its own policy decisions is threatened not only in the judicial sphere, however. As the BBC reports, "More than a million migrants and refugees crossed into Europe in 2015, sparking a crisis as countries struggled to cope with the influx, and creating division in the EU over how best to deal with resettling people."

Everyone from top British military commanders to members of the European Parliament have expressed that compromised sovereignty is an unbearable and even unsafe cost of the U.K.'s current level of EU involvement, particularly in light of the refugee situation.

What better voice to devote to the issue than a British member of the European Parliament? Dan Hannan confronts the issue on his website when he says: "We want, for example, to be able to determine who can enter our country and on what terms."

Another highly informed voice, the former commander of U.K. Forces in Afghanistan, retired Col. Richard Kemp, weighed in recently: "None of this was envisaged when we joined the EU. By leaving we will again be able to determine who does and does not enter the UK. Failure to do so significantly increases the terrorist threat here, endangers our people and is a betrayal of this country."

Kemp also noted in another op-ed that while the U.K. has strong borders that protect against importing terrorism, by contrast "The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, meanwhile, is exploiting weaknesses across Europe: porous borders, free movement of firearms, limited police engagement with minority communities, little joined up intelligence — which need addressing urgently to prevent the next attacks."

With all of this in mind, how could the British sovereign not be wary of obstacles to her nation's ability to make decisions for, and to protect, itself? President Obama has jumped into the fight when he should not meddle in another nation's constitutional future. He will fly to the U.K. in April, apparently to persuade British voters to stay in the EU. However, unlike Obama, the queen is a head of state who has dedicated her life to the safety, security and prosperity of the English-speaking peoples.

Cohen, head of the New York office of Off the Record Strategies and New York director of The Anglosphere Society, spent years advising the U.S. House of Representatives Foreign Affairs Committee on Western European affairs, and was founding executive director of the House United Kingdom Caucus.