United Kingdom Seriously Considers Leaving the European Union

by Kelly Beach

The United Kingdom has a plan to issue a referendum by the end of 2017 that will decide they will sever their bonds with their fellow Europeans.

The issue of European Union (EU) membership has been controversial and stretches all the way back to 1973 when Britain joined the European Economic Community (EEC). The recent popularity of the potential political move has increased due to the upcoming decision Britain has in the next two years.

In January of 2013, Prime Minister David Cameron announced if the Conservative Party won majority for the 2015 elections, the topic of British secession would be up for discussion. Since then, the party has won majority and this decision has become a mounting reality. Cameron claimed he would not leave the EU if his push for reforms succeeded, however, he is clearly not afraid to jump the EU ship if his requests are denied. The proposed reforms included lowering welfare payments to EU migrants in Britain, a clear “violation” of the Union contract which allowed any EU citizen to freely live and work in the country of their choice.[1] Only a year ago the actual possibility of a “Brexit” seemed less than unlikely, however, as crises on the mainland have increased the margin of “Brexit” supporter has grown substantially. Recent polls suggest nearly half of British citizens who voted are in favor of leaving and the other half wish to stay connected to the EU bloc.[2] This potential secession is not only a concern for the European Union, but for trade partners across the globe.

Many applaud Cameron’s bold free election policy on the matter, and claim anything less than this would not receive popular support.[3] Though the decision is far from final, what would it mean if Britain left the EU? Well for one thing, potentially millions of jobs would be at stake (over 3 million jobs recorded involving trade this last year), as well as the prosperity of many foreign-based businesses.[4] Prices for goods in Britain would likely rise and travel would not only be more difficult, but far more strict as far as entering the country goes. Perhaps the greatest priority would be to maintain the same zero tariff economic policy that is in place today between the UK and the EU. If this was not the case, both parties would be seriously strained. In the instance that Britain does leave the EU, relations would definitely be maintained, and if handled correctly, it is hoped that there would be little consequence.

But what does Britain really gain from leaving? Why is there support for this in the first place?

For centuries Britain has always been the odd man out in a unified Europe, and often was more skeptical of the idea, than in support of it. In 1973, Britain finally joined the EEC, the precursor to today’s European Union.[5] A more hostile attitude towards outsiders is a large reason for the political unease, as the large influx of both migrants and refugees correlated with recent attacks in Paris, Belgium, and Germany. Overall, it is largely an issue of immigration and jobs for naturalized British citizens. It is an issue large enough to push a top economic member of the EU to consider secession.

Supporters wish to rid themselves of a strangling, ubiquitous bureaucracy of EU red tape and claim it would free up opportunities for greater trade with other parts of the world.[6] Those who wish to remain in the Union state that the EU is their greatest benefactor and trade partner, and despite what comes with that, it would be better to remain a whole.[7] No economic or governmental ties to the EU would also mean less access to those countries and less appeal to those seeking a destination to trade within the EU. What is certain is the economic future of Britain, and possibly the EU will be decided this next year, threatening political and social disorder that would be sure to cause only more tension on an already strained continent.

 

 

 

[1] Paul Taylor, “Britain’s EU Wish List,” Reuters (November 8, 2015): Accessed January 19, 2016. http://www.reuters.com/article/us-britain-europe-wish-analysis-idUSKCN0SX09R20151108.

[2] Karla Adam, “The Chances of Britain Leaving the E.U. May Have Just Gone up,” Washington Post (January 5, 2016): Accessed January 19, 2016. https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/europe/the-chances-of-britain-leaving-the-eu-may-have-just-gone-up/2016/01/05/a5e47ef0-b3bb-11e5-8abc-d09392edc612_story.html.

[3] Taylor, “Britain’s EU Wish List.”

[4] “The UK’s EU Referendum: Everything You Need to Know,” UK Politics BBC News (January 18, 2016): Accessed January 19, 2016. http://www.bbc.com/news/uk-politics-32810887.

 

[5] Taylor, “Britain’s EU Wish List.”

[6] R.C., “Why, and How, Britain Might Leave the European Union,” The Economist (April 29, 2015): Accessed January 19, 2016. http://www.economist.com/blogs/economist-explains/2015/04/economist-explains-29.

[7] Andreas Smith, The Independent (April 9, 2014): Accessed January 19, 2016. http://www.independent.co.uk/voices/comment/lets-imagine-the-uk-votes-to-leave-the-eu-what-happens-next-9249248.html.

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