Brexit: Britain’s EU Question

Britain’s Conservative Party won last month’s general elections with a thumping majority, upending concerns that a Labour Party win could derail fragile UK economic recovery but making the London business community fearful of Conservatives’ plan to call a referendum on Britain’s European Union membership.

For some time now, citizens of the UK and the wider Europe have argued for putting curbs on migration and a rollback of European institutions’ mandate of ever-stricter oversight of national policy issues as European peripheral countries found themselves defenseless in the wake of the sovereign debt crisis. In a 2013 poll carried out by Pew Research Center, a majority of 8000 respondents gave a decisive thumbs down to further integration of the EU, that led the think-tank researchers to report a ‘full blown crisis of confidence’ in the European project.

Capitalizing on this anger of the British towards the supranational organisation, Prime Minister David Cameron had promised that if the Conservatives formed the government in 2015, his party will call a Yes/No vote on EU membership.

Not that Mr. Cameron wants a Brexit. At most, the Prime Minister is using the referendum as a ploy to push through his package of reforms, which call for curbs on migrant worker welfare rights and a treaty change. There is also the question of how much influence the UK can wield in eurozone decision making since it is not a part of the single currency.

Support from European partners is likely to be scant. While Poland has expressed opposition to any limits on migrant worker rights, France’s Socialist government is ideologically opposite to the British one. And German Chancellor Angela Merkel has agreed to help Britain stay in the EU ‘but not at any price’. EU leaders also worry that once British demands are accommodated to keep the country in the group, other states might come up with their own set of demands and hold Brussels hostage more often. And within the UK too people will eventually realise that they have more to gain from trade and economic opportunities offered by the EU membership than from being outside the EU.

Also, reform is not easy as this article tells us.

Now that the worst of crisis is behind most of Europe, the mood towards EU, particularly amongst the British has rebounded. If a plebiscite is indeed held,(scheduled a year from now), most Brits are likely to vote to stay in the EU, reforms or no reforms. British business derives lots of benefits from access to the single market and a loss of that access would mean for one instance, that London would no longer be the financial center of Europe as HSBC and Deutsche Bank have threatened to relocate operations should there be a conclusive Yes vote to leaving the EU.

-Aakash K. Gupta

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