What is Britain’s Future in the European Union?

Henning Meyer

The crisis of the Eurozone has had a significant impact on the political balance of the European Union. And it is likely to continue to shape the way the European unification process (dis)continues. The crisis of the European Monetary Union (EMU) has also put non-Euro EU member states in a difficult position; especially the ones – like the UK – that had been ambivalent about the nature and future of their membership even before the crisis broke out.

At the end of last year David Cameron vetoed a revision of the Lisbon Treaty and put Britain in a truly difficult position. The Guardian wrote at the time:

David Cameron plunged Britain’s position in Europe into the greatest uncertainty in a generation as he used his veto to block a new EU-wide treaty and left at least 23 other countries to forge a pact to salvage the single currency. (…)

EU leaders promptly agreed to bypass Britain and establish a new accord on the euro among themselves by March. The EU appeared poised to line up 26-1 against Cameron in support of the Franco-German blueprint, leaving Britain utterly isolated.

Cameron’s bombshell came at what was billed as the most important EU summit in years, with the fate of the single currency hanging in the balance. The veto was unexpected and was being seen as a watershed in Britain’s fractious relationship with the rest of Europe. Cameron insisted on securing concessions on, and exemptions from, EU financial markets regulation as the price of his assent to the German-led euro salvation blueprint.

The others balked, France most vocally, accusing Cameron of putting Britain’s perceived interests ahead of resolving the EU’s worst crisis.

The political tension has somewhat eased but the fundamental question remains: In a period of rapid change, what will Britain’s future in the EU look like? Will the UK end its ‘exceptionalism’ and move towards more integration – the direction the Eurozone seems to go? Will Britain continue to be an ambivalent member state that does not really know where to fit in, taking decisions on an issue by issue basis? Or will future changes to the nature of the EU even mean that Britain leaves the Union altogether?

Against the volatile political background of recent months, we have decided to take a fresh look at these crucial questions. In the next weeks Social Europe Journal in cooperation with the London office of the Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung will publish contributions by key voices in the European debate. We hope to illuminate what options Britain has, what our experts consider to be the most likely future development, and what consequences these developments will have.

As always, we hope you will find the contributions interesting reading and please feel invited to join the debate.

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  • Syd Morgan

    Err, what’s this “Britain” thing, then? OK, the United Kingdom of great Britain & Northern Ireland is a member-state, which currently has the greatest interface with other EU states. But the Welsh, Scottish and, for all I know, Northern Ireland governments have direct relations with EU institutions and hold different policy positions on many issues; e.g. the Welsh government opposes the so-called ‘repatriation’ of Cohesion Funds and has a different line on CAP reform.

    So I hope we’re not going to get a monolithic, Anglo-centric view of UK/Britain’s EU relations. And, when the Scots get independence and become a member-state, we’ll all laugh at the government of the United Kingdom of Southern Britain & Northern Ireland scrambling to erect border posts against Scotland to keep out all those Schengen-types attempting to enter their bit of the ‘sceptered isle’.

  • simply a teenager

    An union looking into and worrying about your own and inner problems is practically impossible.
    Lets be realistic. Nobody in this each day more capitalistic world, moves a finger knowing that is not going to compensate fot it. Moreover Europe never seems as united except when it implies an extreamly important economic issue.
    Regarding Britain vision from outside there is clearly two highlighting topics:
    To whom has a broad mind and knows the disparity of opinions that really exist in a society knows that this situation is simply the protection of conservative and upper clases interests.
    Position clearly evident in a country where enormous amount of mony are in game, what is emboided for example in a high percentage of conservative newspapers.

    Anyone can remain united in a self-care ideology.