Similar yet different: the USA and the EU

It is typical of the Leave campaign that in response to President Obama’s support for Britain remaining in the EU, they have challenged his right to make the argument, rather than engage in the argument itself.

Boris Johnson has even gone so far as to call Obama a hypocrite, on the grounds that the USA would not pool sovereignty in the way that EU countries do.

But they do. The states of the USA pool their sovereignty — indeed in a much more far-reaching way than European countries — specifically because they realise that it is in their greater interest to do so. While retaining their identities and keeping important policy areas under their own responsibility, they also delegate significant powers to federal institutions.

Europe does not go nearly so far in this respect. But we recognise that, in a limited number of policy fields, we are interdependent and therefore better off acting jointly. This includes adopting legislation jointly at European level — not least the common rules for our common market on consumer protection, competition policy, environmental standards, trading standards and workplace rights.

Of course, American states are less culturally diverse than European countries. That’s also why we are far less integrated in Europe than in America, and this will not change. The European Union’s motto of unity with diversity is a sound principle. We are not trying to harmonise culture or national identities.

We are a far cry from Churchill’s idea of a United States of Europe. But the principle of exercising public responsibilities at different levels, and of legislating at the scale of the problem to be addressed, applies on both sides of the Atlantic.

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