Britain and the European Union
Source: History Learning Site (slightly modified…)
|1957||The Treaty of Rome was signed by 6 European states
|1967 ||The European Community was established (in Norway called EEC)
|1973||Britain joined the European Community. Tory Prime Minister Edward Heath took Britain in.
|1975||Labour Prime Minister Harold Wilson had a referendum on Britain’s membership – the last national referendum this country has had. 66% voted yes – to stay in the European Community
|1985||The introduction of the Schengen Agreement, i.e. a borderless union.
Today 26 of 27 member-states have signed the Agreement. Not Britain!
|1987||The Single European Act was signed. This was to create an internal market; "an area without frontiers in which the free movement of goods and persons, services and capital is ensured."
|1991||The Maastrict Treaty was signed. The heart of this was to create a single European currency so that Europe as an entity had a currency to challenge the international supremacy of the dollar. Britain, lead by Tory Prime Minister John Major, pushed for and got an "opt out" clause for Britain. This meant that we were part of the European Community and wanted to be a part of it, but not to participate in a single currency, therefore, maintaining the pound should we decide to do so.
|1993||The European Union was formed
|2002||The Euro was introduced on January 1st. Britain has it Five Tests – if these are answered successfully, then Britain will join the Euro. British public opinion did not support the Euro when it was introduced, and the Euro-crisis has not improved the situation.
|2012||The terms "Brexit" and "Brixit" were coined for the concept of the United Kingdom ceasing to be a member of the European Union. This general growth of British Euroscepticism is due to British distrust in the Union.
|2013||British Prime Minister David Cameron (Conservative) promised a referendum on British membership in the European Union if the Conservative Party won a majority at the next general election.
In the beginning
In the early 1970s the European Community was overwhelmingly popular in the UK. Why?
How is the situation today?
The situation described above has been turned upside-down.
- British economy was based on old fashioned and inefficient industry, unprofitable mining, a general nationwide decay and labour conflicts.
- The members of the European Community, however, represented optimism, social and economical progress, increasing social prosperity and reduced unemployment.
- Britain had applied for membership in the Community twice without success.
- Finally, in January, 1973, Britain was granted membership, and in 1975, in a referendum on the membership, 67% voted in favour of this.
- Even the later Prime Minister Margareth Thatcher was positive to membership, and there were almost no Eurosceptics to be found apart from some few left-wing Labour politicians.
Prime Minister David Cameron (Conservative) has clearly expressed that Britain ‘will drift towards the exit’
He is, by many, considered to be the most eurosceptic PM Bitain has had since the birth of the European Union/Community.
And Mr. Cameron is not alone!
Surveys show that a majority of Britons shares his wish to withdraw from the Union.
How could this happen?
The Schengen Agreement of 1985 was felt as a violent blow to British sovereignty
Accepting this Agreement would make Britain a member of a borderless union which meant that the national responsibility of an important part of British national decisions would be transferred to Brussels. This clearly indicated an ultimate end of melting the member nations into a common union. This has never been politically acceptable to Britain.
Jaques Delors as President of the European Commission in 1985
He promoted a pro-federal policy and tried to convince Britain to accept a strong federal union with a common currency and social policy.
At this time Britain experienced social problems with growing unemployment, privatization, social unrest and strikes. The PM with the nick name ‘the Iron Lady’ addressed the social problems with harsh methods, and she did not appreciate any interference from the President of the European Commission.
“In the autumn of 1988 Delors addressed the British Trade Union Congress, promising that the EC (European Community) would be a force to require governments to introduce pro-labour legislation. British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher responded with her famous Bruges Speech in September 1988, in which she said that she had not rolled back the frontiers of the state in Britain only to see them reimposed by a Brussels superstate”.
The Maastricht Treaty
created the European Union and led to the creation of the single European currency, the euro.
There was a desire by many member states to extend the European Economic Community to the areas of foreign policy, military, criminal justice, judicial cooperation. On the other hand especially the United Kingdom had misgivings about accepting areas which they considered to be too sensitive to be managed by the supra-national mechanisms of the European Economic Community in Brussels
Two examples of UK opt-outs in the European Union
- The Schengen Agreement abolished border controls between member states. The UK opted out
- The UK secured an opt-out from having to introduce the euro in the initial Maastricht Treaty negotiations
The opt-out has been criticised in the United Kingdom for hampering the United Kingdom's capabilities in stopping transnational crime through the inability to access the Schengen Information System
Citizens of EU and EEA countries will have to pass a border control when visiting the UK
The consequence: The British Pound is still the currency of Britain
The UK - EU relationship today
In mid-2012, the terms "Brexit" and "Brixit" were coined for the concept of the United Kingdom ceasing to be a member of the European Union. This general growth of British Euroscepticism is due to British distrust in the Union. The recent financial crisis with reduced confidence in the Euro as well as dramatically increasing unemployment and financial instability in several EU nations together with a profound scepticism to the EU bureaucracy are some of the main reasons behind the British euroscepticism.
A traditional scepticism to the Continent in general is also an underlying factor.
Since 2010 opinion polls have favoured a British withdrawal, with opposition peaking in November 2012 at 56% compared to 30% who wanted to remain.”
Membership of the European Union has long been a controversial issue in the United Kingdom. Eurosceptics, who believe the UK would be better off outside the political and economic bloc, seek the United Kingdom's withdrawal from the European Union.
The three main British Political Parties
The Conservative Party (2014 : David Cameron)
The strongest opposition to British membership in the EU is to be found within the Conservative Party.
“In January 2013, British Prime Minister David Cameron (Conservative) promised a referendum on British membership in the European Union if the Conservative Party won a majority at the next general election. Since the announcement in January 2013 of a proposed referendum on continued membership, more business and political leaders have expressed their opposition to the idea.
“The Conservative Party opposes further EU integration and traditionally does not advocate withdrawal from the EU; however, the party has a growing EU sceptic movement. The party opposed the Lisbon Treaty (2007) and campaigned for a referendum on it. The Conservative Party also opposes Britain joining the Euro and calls for 'radical' reform of the CAP and for the restoration of national control over social and employment legislation. In 2010 the party initiated the European Union Act, which passed into law in 2011. The Act provides for a referendum in the event of any future EU treaty change or new treaty which would see sovereignty given from the UK to the EU. The Conservative Party instigated a review on the 'Balance of Competences', which will see every policy areas evaluated to work out where power lies; with the UK, the EU or shared.”
The Liberal Democrats (2014 : Nick Klegg)
is overwhelmingly in favour of the European Union:
“We believe the European Union plays an essential role in guaranteeing the security of Europe today. The years since 1945 have been a period of unprecedented peace in western Europe, and the European project, with its approach of resolving disagreements around a conference table, through legal and democratic means, has been central to this.
We recognise that Britain’s place in the EU is also central to the prosperity of British citizens. Our country’s history is as a successful trading nation, and it is now estimated that many millions of British jobs depend on trading with other European countries – greatly facilitated by the EU and our place in it.”
Source: Jeremy Hargreaves (LibDem)
“The Liberal Democrats has traditionally been the most 'Pro-EU' UK party, arguing that 'the UK's place is at the heart of Europe'. In 2008, Liberal Democrats Leader, Nick Clegg, called for a referendum on the UK's EU membership to provide the opportunity to make a case in favour of the EU to 'defeat the eurosceptics for a generation'. The Liberal Democrats supported the Lisbon Treaty, but the party is keen to avoid further institutional changes and has insisted on the importance of subsidiarity; Lib Dems argue that the EU is useful for dealing with global issues (such as cross-border crime and environmental concerns), but that the EU should not act in areas where national or local action would be more effective. The Lib Dems advocate reforming the EU budget and ending the monthly relocation of the EP from Brussels to Strasbourg.”
The Labour Party (2014 : Ed Miliband)
“oversaw many developments in the EU when it held power in the UK from 1997-2010. For example, Labour Prime Minister (PM) Tony Blair signed the EU's Social Chapter in 1997 (reversing Conservative PM John Major's earlier decision to stay out of EU social policy altogether). However, the Labour Party's position on UK membership of the Euro is uncertain - in 2001 it supported joining the Euro if the UK economy passed 5 'tests of economic strength' and if it were supported at a referendum. However, in 2007, Labour PM Gordon Brown asserted the UK would not join. In 2005, Tony Blair gave up 20% of the UK's EU budget rebate in exchange for 'fundamental reform of the CAP', but reform was more limited than expected. In 2007, Gordon Brown, signed the Lisbon Treaty despite the Labour Party's earlier promise that the Treaty's predecessor, the EU Constitution, would be put to a referendum.”
This is a highly biased comment on the Shengen Agreement added on 20 Feb 2011 by UK Expat:
I find it very revealing that the only aspects of Schengen Britain wants is the goody-bag of databases and datasets.
Since the Orwellian "Exporting the Borders" legislation of 2007, which requires my Russian wife (I am a UK citizen) to be fingerprinted on every visit to the UK, we have visited on one occasion together since then.
Conversation at the police border control off the ferry:
"Visit Britain often do you Sir?"
"Not if I can help it."
Britain is an island in many more ways than its simple geographic shape would imply.
I'm glad I moved to Germany and I intend to stay there until the UK rejoins the civilised world.
Quo Vadis, Britannia?
The situation today:
- A deep, thorough and growing gap has developed between Britain and the EU
- A majority of the UK population want to leave the EU according to polls
- An even more united EU with more powerful supranational institutions due to the financial crisis
What will Britain choose, and what are the consequences?
EEA status (like Norway, Liechtenstein and Iceland)
- Secure the sovereignty of the nation
- Customs barrier to the important European markets
- Loss of jobs
- No access to the European labour market
- No direct influence on European politics
- Reduced sovereignty
- Will have to accept most decisions made in Brussels
- Cannot take part in the decision-making themselves
- Access to European markets through negotiations
- Access to the European labour market
- No direct influence on European politics
- Will have to pay a duty/tax for access to the EU market
- Will have to re-negotiate opt-outs which has been granted the UK as a member nation
- Will keep its status and rights as a member nation and keep its existing opt-outs
- Will have to accept a gradually more integrated union and must be prepared to fight for its special position within the Union
One might suspect leading eurosceptical politicians in the UK to work for immediate, short-term political support for a policy they probably know is unrealistic.
- Britain will end up as an isolated island and the social and economical consequences will be intolerable
- Will be completely unacceptable to Britain
- Is probably the only possible solution if Britain will avoid overwhelming problems