Brexit

Should the UK leave the EU or not?

Should the UK leave the EU or not? -  CO.EUR.

Should the United Kingdom remain a member of the European Union or leave the European Union?  The question will be put to British voters on June 23 2016. Those in favour of  Brexit, a term coined to describe a potential British exit from the European Union, argue that Britain would save billions in membership fees, regain full control of its borders  and free small- and medium-sized businesses from restrictive EU laws.  Others say the consequences could be catastrophic, with a huge economic fallout: Brexit  could see the UK economy lose more than two percent of its total GDP by 2030.

 A year ago the chance that Britons will choose to cut ties with the E.U seemed remote, but as Europe has struggled to cope with a number of crises, including an  influx of migrants to the continent, the difference between those wanting to remain part of the bloc and those wanting to leave has narrowed. If leading figures in the City  said that leaving the EU can only damage  the most important British industries, some of Britain’s most influential newspapers  are campaigning to leave. Here are some reasons raised for and against Britain's membership of the EU. Reasons to leave: Freedom to make trade deals with other nations,  to spend UK resources presently through EU membership in the UK, to control the  national borders,  to restore Britain’s special legal system,  to deregulate the EU’s costly mass of laws, to make major savings for British consumers,  to regenerate Britain’s fisheries, to save the NHS from EU threats to undermine it by harmonising  healthcare across the EU, and to reduce welfare payments to non-UK EU citizens, to restore British customs and traditions and to get rid of any threat to Britain's military freedom. Also the European Institutions are seen as lacking of democracy: The European Parliament is directly elected, although the powerful Commission which proposes legislation is not.  Because many of these laws supersede legislation made by individual states' parliaments,  the system is seen as undemocratic.  Reasons To Stay: At least three millions of jobs are linked to  EU membership, Some of Britain's largest trading partners - including France and Germany - are in the EU. More than 50% of  UK exports go to EU countries and membership allows UK  to have a say over how trading rules are drawn up,  Around 1.4 million British people live abroad in the EU, and having membership makes movement around the continent  easy,  The European Arrest Warrant cuts out the need for long and complicated extradition procedures and allows criminals to be brought to justice across the EU,  The EU is the world's biggest market and plays a big role in world trade, climate change issues, development projects and more. As a member of the EU the UK gains also in foreign policy terms, has more influence in international forums and is a more attractive partner.

It was  David Cameron that in 2013 In order to gain political power  pledged that if he won another term in office he would hold a referendum asking whether the country should remain in the EU. The promise was an attempt to win over the more hard-line, "Euroskeptic" elements of his Conservative Party at a time when the UK Independence Party was gaining ground and campaigning on a staunchly anti-EU platform. The irony is that the prime minister does not want to leave the  EU and he said recently  “I firmly believe that for our economic security and increasingly for our national security, the best future for Britain is in a reformed European Union”.  Nor the majority of Tory MPs, who might dislike the EU but understand the economic benefits that come with it. Cameron wants Britain to remain part of the union, as long as key reforms can be made. To that end, he has been negotiating for months with the EU to reshape Britain’s role.  He said that if  an agreement strong enough will be reached he will campaign  to persuade the British people to support UK membership of the EU and it will be the opportunity to settle this issue for a generation. So he made to the other EU leaders a number of proposals that can be summarised under six broad headings. First, migration. Mr Cameron is seeking to put a stop to “welfare tourism” by limiting some benefits for new immigrants. In particular, he wants a four-year ban on benefits, including those paid to people in work, being claimed by migrants who arrive from the rest of the EU. Second, he is looking for a general reduction in EU regulation, and in some cases a repatriation of regulatory powers from Brussels to national capitals. Third, he would like to see a stronger push to complete the single market in such fields as services, digital technology and energy. Fourth, he is demanding some form of opt-out for Britain from the treaties’ objective of “ever closer union among the peoples of Europe”. Fifth, he is determined to give national parliaments, which he calls the true source of democratic authority in the European project, greater powers to block EU legislation. And finally, he wants a guarantee that an increasingly integrated euro zone will not act against the interests of EU countries that remain outside it.

So the  issue facing European leaders  was how to offer Britain enough concessions to to keep the union intact.  No EU country and none of the Brussels elite actively want Britain to leave. The European leaders know Brexit would weaken a club already in deep trouble over such issues as migration and the euro crisis. The UK has a natural rebalancing role between the big countries. The UK, a leading trading power and financial center, is the third largest economy in Europe after Germany and France and it’s one of Europe’s most important powers in foreign policy and defense.  For example it’s likely that without UK Europe’s links to America would become more tenuous. But there were limits to the concessions other countries were willing to make to persuade Britons to stay.  Promises to complete the single market and cut back future regulation a was  vague enough to be endorsed across the EU, but any British attempts to water down existing rules was  resisted by other governments. East European countries strongly opposed the proposal of restrictions on benefits for migrants within the EU. The European Parliament  was against the efforts to give national parliaments greater powers to block EU legislation . After tense talks with the other EU leaders and despite the opposition of some countries, like France and Belgium,  Mr. David Cameron  struck a deal  on  February 19 obtaining three key achievements.  First,  the United Kingdom will be officially exempted  from the European Union's principle of  ever closer union . Second , the  non-eurozone countries will be able to delay new laws proposed by the eurozone, allowing them to buy time in negotiating amendment  (mainly in order to protect the city of London, which many in the United Kingdom fear would otherwise be mistreated by an integrationist eurozone).  Lastly, employment benefits for EU migrants could be restricted by a so-called "emergency brake" that would allow the United Kingdom to restrict benefits for seven years and also, from 2020 onwards,  child benefit payments for the children of EU migrants living outside the United Kingdom will be indexed to the cost of living in their home countries.  UK obtained also  a hard commitment that the changes regarding ever-closer union and protections for non-eurozone countries would be written into the EU treaties the next time they were opened meanwhile the benefit restriction changes are not subject to the same guarantees.

Cameron can now fully come out in favor of remaining in the European Union but there's no guarantee that British voters will support him. If finally the Britons will vote to leave EU,  the UK exit would be disastrous for UE, for UK or  for both parties?  To answer to this question it could be useful to focus on the role  Britain plaid in the process os European integration. The country has long had an uneasy relationship  In the aftermath of the Second World War, Winston Churchill  made clear that Britain would be a supportive but independent partner of any entity that should bind France and Germany together.  He  said: 'We are with Europe but not of it."  In the end, Britain did join the European Economic Community but only in 1973, 15 years after the Treaty of Rome. Britain  joined the Social Chapter in 1997, eight years after it was adopted by other member states and  never signed up the Schengen Agreement on common borders  or  the  Economic and Monetary Union  having used its status as an economic powerhouse to keep its currency,  the pound sterling, while all other members except Denmark now uses the euro or are shifting to it.   Britain's political leaders have been always cautious in expanding the UK's involvement towards the  European unity, but at the same time  they have been very successful in shaping its institutions to British strategic goals and it has dictated much of the EU's common foreign and security policy.  The EU's budget has been kept below 1 percent of GDP across the continent and Britain has successfully defended its budget rebate which was secured to compensate for the high net cost to the UK of the Common Agricultural Policy. The different voting systems used by the EU's institutions tend to favour  British interests, such  the single market, which most Britain's are united in supporting, and the regulations that help create and preserve it have been advanced using Qualified Majority Voting.  Meanwhile, issues where Britain exerts more caution such as tax harmonisation, redistribution, defence, have to be agreed on the basis of unanimity. The UK  has ensured that  variable geometry  has been possible on new areas of co-operation so member states can go at different speed . But most of all the UK  had a phenomenal success in ensuring that "broadening" rather than "deepening" was the underlining objective of the EU over the last two decades.  From 12 member states in 1973, the EU expanded to 15 in 1995, 25 in 2004 and has recently accepted its 28th member with the accession of Croatia and Macedonia, Montenegro and Serbia are all candidate to join.

Always UK played a key role in the political and institutional debates in Brussels and in shaping the European policies and strategies, and gained  substantial benefits. Now the current British government for internal political consumption  has diverted its attention from leading  the rounds of key policy debates in Brussels to focusing instead on a may be wasting of time exercise of seeking treaty change to repatriate powers, with as immediate result a decrease of  its leadership role in Brussels.

So the UK exit would be disastrous for UE,  for UK or  for both parties?  Even no one really knows what the exact fallout could be, that the Brexit would damage the union’s economic and political power.  Without Britain, it would be harder for the EU to pull its global weight. Other countries would try to reassess their own membership.  For example in France, Marie Le Pen, leader of the far-right National Front Party, has already announced plans for a similar referendum if she wins her country’s 2017.  It’s sure that United Kingdom  would be missed,  but it would not be a disastrous for Europe if a core of European member countries will take the chance go forward on deepening the Union for  reviving growth and democratic legitimacy in Europe. Especially t the European Union's founding members should try to find some way to coordinate their stances in order to save the union.

The damage to Britain  probably would be greater.  It could be a very  wrong move  for  UK to leave EU.  In order to gain some supposed  domestic benefits it would lost its European  key role and the economic benefits that membership of the European Union still affords to the United Kingdom  with also a concrete risk that leaving EU might well break up the United Kingdom itself considering that Scotland and Northern Ireland want to stay in.

29/02/2016  - CO.EUR.