European Movement UK

Britain's future is with Europe! Join the debate and put your opinion forward!

A need for balance

by Diogo Pinto, Secretary General, European Movement International ///

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!

Author :


  1. In response to your call to get talking, I make this contribution.

    You start the article by mentioning Winston Churchill and giving the carefully crafted and entirely false impression that he was in some way engaged in a European movement that saw the UK as part of a united Europe. The truth is of course that there has never been any form of popular support in the UK for membership of a political unit. It has been the repeated refusal of pro EU groupings to accept this that has led to the current problems you face.

    We can doubtless bandy economic arguments all day. But here are a two that tend to put the importance of the EU in context. The hugely trumpeted Single Market applies almost exclusively to goods. Goods make up approximately 15% of the UK economic output. Of this about a third is exported (5%) and of this slightly less than half goes to the EU, ie 2.5% of our output. To gain access to this market we pay a very significant annual payment and accept the imposition of EU regulation to all our economic activities and increasingly to social and legal areas. From 1st July 2011 the South Koreans gained access to 98.7% of the Single Market according to Karel DeGucht Commissioner for Trade. This was achieved at zero cost and zero interference. So assuming we had a deal similar to South Korea leaving the EU would impact on 0.0325% of our economic activity and we would be free of EU interference in the remaining 97.5% of our economy.

    Secondly we are not allowed to negotiate free trade deals with other countries so we are still waiting for deals with the US, China, etc. ; yet countries as small as Iceland have already achieved this. Such free trade acts as enormous multipliers but we are captive of the protectionist instincts of others.

    The political benefits are even less apparent. In defence we along with France supply virtually all the military power that the EU has so it is difficult to see how belonging to the EU (as distinct to NATO) provides a defence benefit to us. Climate change, the EU was totally ignored at the Copenhagen conference, the US, China, Brazil etc decided what they would agree to and not a single European was in the room. Foreign policy, there is not a single view on foreign policy because the countries have different interests. Etc etc.

    Finally please can you at least be honest regarding what having “a seat at this table of European decision-making “ actually means.

    The UK has an 8.2% weighting in QMV, unfair given population balance etc., but no worse than that experienced by other larger states. From the 1st January 2014 the Euro Zone countries can pass whatever legislation they wish with a clear majority. Given their obvious need to protect themselves given the on-going Euro crisis the EZ will have little compunction in doing what is right for them regardless of the needs of others.

    Attendance at the table then simply allows you to know what is going to be imposed on you without having to wait for the e-mail to arrive. The only conceivable way this will change is if the UK becomes a fully integrated member of the Euro, does anyone out there see any indication at all that there is or ever has been any willingness to join the single currency, even on the part of big business (Helpful quote “the closer union of the Eurozone is not for us.” John Cridland Director General CBI 23/01/13

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