The European Movement has existed since 1948, inspired by, amongst others, Sir Winston Churchill. We understand the need for, and constantly demand a stronger, more democratic and prosperous European Union; but, crucially, we understand the value being united brings to all involved.
What we see through our work with our partner organisations both in Britain and across Europe to bring this vision to fruition, is that there is a gulf between perceptions in Britain of what ‘Europe does for us’, and the reality of what is actually delivered. For instance, it is rarely acknowledged that the UK gets a lot in political and economic terms out of its relationship with the European Union. Yet, on the streets of Britain, Europe seems to be viewed with a candour that recalls historical ties to ‘the Continent’ – a relationship that was built through war and competition – and which is at odds with the reality of today, the benefits this relationship represents, and what it actually delivers. With the upcoming European elections in May 2014 this gulf in perceptions seems set to grow.
The European Parliament has already launched its campaign for the European Elections 2014, and soon we will see individual campaigns by MEPs from all over Europe fighting for a seat at this table of European decision-making. However, in Britain, there may be a very different picture taking shape – one that will be dominated by UKIP and its crusade to remove the UK from the table. There are many negatives associated with a UKIP victory at the next European Elections, not least the presense of a large number of MEPs from a party which has traditionally done very little to represent its constituents.
Let’s be clear: if the UK is not at the table, it cannot impact decisions being made. UKIP MEPs not doing their work means that Britain has less say in the EP’s decisions.
Following Prime Minister Cameron’s announcement that the UK would hold an EU referendum after the next General Elections in 2015, an intense discussion has started on what that will mean for the UK’s future in the EU. Such a move was welcomed by europhobes for showing a strong hand to ‘Europe’. On the other hand, on this side of the Channel, Cameron’s move was understood to be a reaction to internal politics rather than a rational one with the national interest in mind.
Where would the UK turn to if not towards the EU? How, through what means, would it influence the international debate? And who would be its natural allies in the world if not its European neighbours?
Today, the UK has a compromised relationship with its partners in the EU. Many in the UK seem to suggest that the EU should work for the UK; rarely is it suggested that the two should work with each other and that, in a networked world, this is the only way to advance economic and political interests.
This is a vision that the European Movement is committed to achieving, and, through our European network, it is one that we actively promote. The European Movement UK has also consistently campaigned to inform the debate around European integration and the benefits of EU membership.
The debate in the UK on how it interacts with the EU needs to intensify, and this debate needs to include all voices, and should consider practical rather than emotional aspects of the European relationship.
With the European Elections in 2014, and a referendum on European membership in 2017, now seems the perfect time to get talking!