(Image provided by telegraph.co.uk, available here)
In a much anticipated speech, British Prime Minister, David Cameron, announced that if his party is re-elected in the 2015 elections, he will offer the British people a referendum on whether Britain will remain in the European Union by the end of 2017. In the speech, Cameron acknowledged the “wafer thin” support British people have for continued participation in the EU. He went on to say that he hopes his country will remain a part of the EU, but a major renegotiation of its relationship with Europe, including labor, environmental and judiciary legislation must take place first in order for that to happen.
The results of these negotiations are what Cameron hopes to bring to the people in a referendum during his next term, if he is re-elected. His plan is to bargain for a reformed union with a more “flexible, adaptable and open” relationship between all members. Cameron hopes to give the British people a “real choice between leaving [the Union], or being part of a new settlement in which Britain shapes and respects the rules of the single market but is protected by fair safeguards.” “Far from unraveling the EU, [Cameron believes] this [renegotiation] will in fact bind its members more closely because such flexible, willing cooperation is a much stronger glue than compulsion from the center.”
Members of the Prime Minister’s conservative party were pleased with the speech and believe it would appeal to the large majority of the British people. However, Nick Clegg, the deputy prime minister and leader of the Liberal Democrats, with which Mr. Cameron’s party formed a ruling coalition after the last election, has said his party would not join a coalition with a party that wanted a renegotiation with Europe.
Member states of the Union are also not pleased. Germany’s Chancellor seemed willing to compromise on small issues with Great Britain, but stressed that any outcome must be fair to all. French politicians went further. Laurent Fabius, the foreign minister, said Britain could not join a football club and say, “let’s play rugby”.
Many believe Cameron is “vastly overstating” the UK’s renegotiation capacity. On peripheral issues the EU might accommodate London, but on the very important strategic issues, on the necessity of the euro, on climate, on the big global things, it does not seem likely.
What do you think about Britain’s chances of reorganizing the EU? If negotiations go poorly, will that spell the end of Prime Minister Cameron’s tenure? President Obama has recently warned the UK that leaving the EU would not be a wise decision, and could lead to a weakened British position on the world stage. Do you agree?
SOURCE: Britain to vote on staying in EU if Cameron is re-elected
The British Government has already avoided adopting the Euro, and therefore has side-stepped one of the most central commitments of EU membership. In the event that the British people are confronted with a referendum to determine their continued membership, I believe that the British would, in fact, vote in favor of cessation. This, however, would not be wise.
Britain benefits in many ways from EU membership. The super-national concept that is the EU affords member states the ability to closely engage with their neighbors in an environment that is inherently more trustworthy than traditional foreign relations negotiations offers. Therefore, I fear that British cessation from the EU will lead to the British being ostracized in the region. Failure to comply with the wide-ranging mandates of the EU system will likely create resentment among the various nations that have committed to burden-sharing and collective governance on certain important issues such as: immigration, economics, labor, and energy.
In all, I believe that if Britain leaves the EU such a move would severely undermine their inevitable assertions that they are committed to the stability of Europe. Furthermore, the move could quite possibly engender a move by the international community to support the remaining EU and its objectives over the presumptive objectives of Britain as a literal and figurative island.
The U.K. leaving the E.U. would not only affect the nations that are part of the E.U., but also the other organizations where the E.U. is represented. The E.U. is represented at the U.N., the W.T.O., the G-8 and G-20. Another issue with such a large body as the E.U. is that no matter how much bargaining power the U.K. thinks it has or should have, it is not in a position to be making a large number of demands in hopes that they will be accepted by over 20 other nations. I agree with Germany’s Chancellor in that whatever the outcome of negotiations with the U.K., the policies need to be complimentary to everyone involved. Furthermore, I think the U.K. would experience some serious drawbacks if they decide to leave the E.U. Aside from any diplomatic relations issues they might come across from leaving, the E.U. does provide them with benefits. For example, this past month U.K. researchers secured 46 million dollars of E.U. funds for a new research project involving graphene. Although I do sympathize with Cameron’s concerns for the British people (the U.K. has one of the highest gender pay gaps in Europe), I don’t think leaving the E.U. would solve their problems. There is high potential for increased tensions between the U.K. and other European countries, and I agree with President Obama that it could weaken their image on the world stage.