I still can't quite believe the UK is going to leave the EU, quite possibly in an (avoidable) chaotic fashion, because people think that the UK is not an independent sovereign state. I can't believe a category error could generate such a debacle.
Bernard Williams made a distinction between 'what we think' and 'what we think we think'. Maybe that's what's going on here. I don't believe many people really think the UK is not sovereign, independent etc. But maybe they think they think that.
There has also long been a lot of loose talk about sovereignty from politicians and commentators- pro- and anti-EU, on right and left. Sovereignty is routinely conflated with something like unilateral decisiveness or just brute power.
And of course there is a longrunning scepticism about the very concept of sovereignty, particularly among liberals. People have been saying the concept is outdated or positively pernicious since WW2.
We have got to a point where it often feels as if sovereignty is only discussed in sovereigntist terms- that is, in terms of an ideology that trades on the sort of conflation I was talking about.
Rather than saying things like 'no country is really sovereign these days' or 'it's worth trading sovereignty for trade' opponents of sovereigntism should reject their premise: they should say 'You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.'
In other words, they should avoid painting themselves into a corner by conceding the main point at issue (sovereignty is being reduced). Being against sovereigntism- a distorted ideology- does not mean being against sovereignty.
Do I need to add that the United Kingdom of Great Britain and *Northern Ireland* is not a country where you can afford to be relaxed about sovereignty being framed in sovereigntist terms?
Did a thread on loose talk about sovereignty last night and why the UK of GB & NI of all places should avoid it. Problem exists on all sides of Brexit debate, but this is a spectacular example. thefullbrexit.com/irish-border via @KeohaneDan
The notion that the Good Friday Agreement undermined UK sovereignty in Northern Ireland is pretty much the opposite of the truth. But the word 'sovereignty' in Britain these days is a licence for talking any old nonsense.
WHat is particularly galling about this sort of thing, apart from its utter intellectual irresponsibility, is the blank incuriosity it shows with regard to a remarkable political achievement: a workable resolution of the legitimacy problem in Northern Ireland.