From the Economist, an argument for the futility of leaving the EU (my added emphases):
The Johnson-Gove argument goes something like this: unlike many continental countries, Britain has an unbroken tradition of liberty and representative democracy (a “golden thread”) dating back to Magna Carta and shared by other Anglophone nations. This tradition is almost uniquely uncompromising about accountability, steadfast in the conviction that power should rest only in the hands of leaders elected by and answerable to a nation constituting a demos, a community of shared assumptions and experiences. Thus the EU, accountable to foreigners as well as Britons, breaks the sacred bond of mutual power between decisionmakers and those on whose behalf they act.
The flaw in this case lies in the tradition’s idealistic definition of sovereignty. For Mr Johnson and Mr Gove, being sovereign is like being pregnant—you either are or you aren’t. Yet increasingly in today’s post-Westphalian world, real sovereignty is relative. A country that refuses outright to pool authority is one that has no control over the pollution drifting over its borders, the standards of financial regulation affecting its economy, the consumer and trade norms to which its exporters and importers are bound, the cleanliness of its seas and the security and economic crises propelling shock waves—migration, terrorism, market volatility—deep into domestic life. To live with globalisation is to acknowledge that many laws (both those devised by governments and those which bubble up at no one’s behest) are international beasts whether we like it or not. If sovereignty is the absence of mutual interference, the most sovereign country in the world is North Korea.
Thus the EU is just one of thousands of intrusions on the sort of sovereignty that the likes of Mr Johnson so cherish. Britain is subject to some 700 international treaties involving multi-lateral submissions to multilateral compromises. Its membership of the UN similarly infringes its self-determination, for it can be outvoted there just as it can in Brussels. Likewise the WTO, NATO, the COP climate talks, the IMF, the World Bank, nuclear test ban treaties and accords on energy, water, maritime law and air traffic all require Britain to tolerate the sort of trade-offs that Eurosceptic souverainistes find distasteful: influence in exchange for irksome standardisation, laws and rules set mostly by foreigners not elected by Britons (regulations that Britain would not apply, or would apply differently, if left to its own devices)…
So what this writer is saying is that in a globalised world in which countries are tied by any number of alliances, treaties, trade agreements, etc, sovereignty is illusory. Other people will be making your laws, whether you like it or not. In fact laws may just “bubble up at no one’s behest”.
It is a counsel of despair: it is resignation to democratic self-government becoming impossible.
If so, then all freedom must entirely vanish, as one law after another just “bubbles up”, to further erode freedoms.
The Framework Convention on Tobacco Control is one such freedom-destroying treaty that seems to have somehow just “bubbled up” out of nowhere. I still have no idea who signed up to it on Britain’s behalf, or why. There was no parliamentary debate about it. Yet it’s the straitjacket which has required Britain to enact socially divisive and economically destructive smoking bans.
But what is the point of all these alliances and treaties and trade agreements except to preserve and enhance the freedom and prosperity of the British people? If it is not this, then it can only be a way of shackling and hobbling and impoverishing the people – which is something that surely only Britain’s enemies would desire?
By all means enter into partnerships and treaties and alliances and other agreements. But always ensure that the outcome is beneficial to your own freedom and prosperity. And if it is not, then walk away from it.
If laws just “bubble up” out of nowhere, it can only be because someone somewhere has not been doing their job of ensuring beneficial outcomes, or warning against adverse outcomes. As for example happens when people fail to read the agreements they are signing.
The laws may indeed be “international beasts” that grow out of discussions with many people all over the world, but they still ultimately require our agreement. And if we don’t agree to them, they will not apply.