Why is it that the EU can stir up such massive emotion and hatred? More importantly, why is it that we apparently acquiesce at every whimsical idea that gets pumped out of the EU Commission? As someone who is a sceptic, and by that I mean I'm equally sceptical of europhilia as I am of euroscepticism, I find myself thinking that neither side are right when it comes to the answer.
On the one hand the europhiles will say that we don't acquiesce, we have simple agreed, as with all other member states, to confer areas of competence at the supranational level. That means that in some areas of policy we accept that qualified majority voting is the weight required to carry it.
On the other hand, the eurosceptic frame the debate within the issue of sovereignty. For them we have given away our right to decide to do x, y or z and we only have ourselves to blame. Their solution tends to manifest itself through groups such as Better off Out, or they call for renegotiation of our membership back to the terms they believe we agreed to in 1975.
Personally I take another view that is less political and more cultural. I think all our problems and annoyances with the EU stem from our obsessively British sense of fair play and following the rules. We, in joining the club, agree to accept the rules. We're not like those French, Germans, Spaniards or whoever else that might occasionally ignore the rules when it suits them. That just wouldn't be British!
Therein, for me at least, lies the problem. Take for example the recent changes to the law regarding booster seats in cars. The law, as many will know, stipulate if your child is under a certain height, or under 12, they must have a booster seat. Besides the problem of enforcement on our own part, ask yourself this, if we had ignored the law what would've actually happened?
Nothing. A few words would've been said in the Council of Ministers no doubt, strong words from the Commission, perhaps talk of a fine. It's not like they have the capacity to invade. In recent years the French and Germans have comprehensively broken the economic rules governing the Euro. Their argument? National interest, sod off. Would we ever do that? Probably not. Perhaps we should.
The European Union, works for those on the continent precisely because they know it doesn't really have the capacity to enforce it's will. This is especially true where those member states have their own written constitution. We on the other don't, so we get lost in the minutiae of statute and convention trying to figure out where sovereignty lies. Throw into the mix our cultural tendency toward following the rules and fair play and you have a recipe for disaster.
Put simply, our relationship with the EU is defined by our insistence on playing cricket with it. Everyone else meanwhile is playing Aussie Rules.