Britain could exit the EU without too much worry, but without the great prize eurosceptics hope for.

Not quite what it seems.

Not quite what it seems.

The level of debate about Britain’s future in the EU is getting interesting, because the Eurozone crisis is throwing up opportunities, and not just for eurosceptics either. There are some who advocate a straight British vote followed by a walkout, but other calmer heads are beginning to see another option. If Chancellor Merkel is to amend the Lisbon treaty, it’s very hard to see David Cameron agreeing to any changes to the treaty (which will have to go through the Commons and Lords) without getting some sort of quid pro quo for his trouble, such as British membership being transformed into access to the single market and opt outs on everything else.
This would, of course, open the treaty up to debate as every country starts looking for stuff, which could cause the talks to rumble on as the markets look on aghast. But it could also allow Britain and other eurosceptic countries (Sweden, Finland, Denmark, Czech republic, Slovakia, possibly Ireland) to push for a new reduced form of associate membership. If it could be done tidily, indeed if Cameron now were to (even secretly) begin negotiating a draft treaty text agreeable to Britain’s potential allies, he could present a fait accompli to Chancellor Merkel as the price for agreeing to the creation of a fiscal union for those countries that want it. It would surely be Cameron’s greatest moment.
Or would it? Firstly, let’s be honest. It would not be the disaster that more excitable British pro-Europeans claim. Britain is an important trading partner for most EU countries, and so an amicable arrangement will be arrived at to accommodate the New European Free Trade Area (NEFTA). And yes, Britain will save money by not contributing as much to EU coffers, although it will, as Norway does, still be required to pay a membership fee. Money which, by the way, Britain will have no say in spending, as Britain will no longer have a commssioner or MEPs or a seat at the council of ministers. As for the end of regulation, there’s some truth in that. Britain will no longer have to apply the social legislation, like workers rights. But British manufactured products will still have to obey EU regulations and standards to be sold in the EU, this time without British ministers and commissioners fighting the British case. British industry will still be told what to do by Brussels. And yes, it is true, Britain will now be able to speak for Britain at the WTO. Once the US, EU, China, India, Brazil, Japan and Russia decide the big stuff. Then Britain can have her say.
Finally, I look forward to eurosceptics looking across the English channel at the 150-200 million integrated economic behemoth that they will have little or no control over. Well done chaps!

17 thoughts on “Britain could exit the EU without too much worry, but without the great prize eurosceptics hope for.

  1. Personally, I hope that UK goes out of the UE. Completely.

    I’m one of those continentals that have the stupid habit of cultivating a little their English – it helps when speaking with Indians, after all – and over the years I got fed of the constant reminders to your “special connection” with the USA (not that the USA are that much aware of it, by the way), all the jokes on the line of “we are in because we are against it” (the CEE before, now the UE) that you can encounter almost everywhere in your “popular culture”.

    That, not to mention the instrumentality of some of your media in the current destabilization campaign against UE (the debt situation of continental Europe is not really any worse than that of the USA or, rather, the second is not any better than the first; yet we’ve seen on BBC – which, again, is seen well beyond a small Island on the western shores of Eurasia- a so called “independent trader” advocate for abandoning EU investments for USA bonds, right at the start of the current crisis) that smacks of backstabbing.

    Brits don’t feel Europeans that much? For me, fine.

  2. A couple of points Olly:

    1. Two countries voted in favour of the constitution treaty, two voted against, one (guess!) voted both ways.
    2. The EU has not failed economically. Many non-EU countries are suffering similar economic problems.
    3. The EU has not failed politically. Even in Britain, in the EU elections, UKIP gets less than 25% of the vote. Truth be told, the public don’t love the EU. I don’t think they care one way or the other.
    4. You do need centralised authorities to pass regulations in a single market, whether it’s the UK, the US, or the EU. If Britain wants to cede that right to the EU single market, fair enough. You can obey the rules we pass for your products sold in the EU. I’ll bet British compabies will lobby the UK govt to follow EU standards, though.
    5. No tolerance of opposition? What do you mean? .

  3. and yes, the UK Government and previous Prime Ministers are as much part of the problem as the self interested careerists in Brussels

  4. Scotland and Wales form their own laws, they do veto stuff that is their own: i.e tuition fees, the British parliament decided to raise them, Scotland decided to keep them at 0
    And furthermore, they are allowed to call their own referenda, indeed Scotland is having a refernda on independence

    We dont need the EU for free trade
    We dont need the EU for citizens to travel and work
    We dont need the EU to decide which regualtions to pass, the UK can do that

    Economically the EU has failed
    Politically the EU has failed, the majority of the voters in many EU countries dont want it
    The constitution was rejected by many many countries who voted on it including those who benefit hugely financailly from EU membership
    Even the Constitution 2: The lisbon treaty failed in the 1 country that voted, and then they were forced to vote again

    There is a huge democratic defecit, there is no tolerance of opposition, the Whole European project is created and managed by self interested Eurocrats against the will of the people

  5. You don’t give Scotland or Wales a right to veto laws within the UK that they don’t like. As for not working, that’s not true. As a common market, free travel area and political bloc it has been quite successful. I know loads of people who excercise their rights as EU citizens to live and work in other EU member states. As for EU regulation, most of those regulations would be passed anyway. You don’t seriously think that Briatin is going to scrap food labelling legislation, for example? Or consumer protection. Or air travel rights. Or cooperation on fighting terrorism or crime or pollution or smuggling. Having said all that, I do think Britain should have a referendum. This is not the United States, no people should be forced to be part of a union they do not wish to be part of.

  6. British MEPs can be outvoted so policies Britain as a whole objects to can be imposed upon her
    British MPs cannot be outvoted so policies Britain as a whole objects to are imposed upon her

    Commissioners make the law, and as you said are not loyal country but to the machinery of the EU and the EU ‘Project’

    A project that costs British tax payers billions, allows people we didnt vote for to make 75% of our laws, and at the end of the day, does not work!

  7. Jason, aren’t you missing a trick in not pointing out to Olly that it’s the Council, and not the Commission, that’s the real decision-making body? The Council, that is, where last year, for instance, the UK only once voted against a proposal. In 2008 it didn’t oppose even one proposal!

  8. Not only that, Jason, she also guillotined debate on the Single European Act (for those who don’t know it: the first of two treaties that created the EU) and campaigned during the 1975 referendum for Britain to remain in the EEC. Of course the blame is with British politicians, most of whom are europhile (the Tories being the worst, though they cultivate the opposite image). Labour have had many excellent sceptics: Hugh Gaitskell (his 1962 speech is brilliant), Barbara Castle, Michael Foot, Bryan Gould, Peter Shore and, of course, Tony Benn, who has opposed the project for over 45 years.

    I maintain that it’s an offence to represent one’s country in the Commission. That’s what the oath (quoted above) is for.

  9. Funny thing about British eurosceptics is that nearly all your disappointments come from the failures of British politicians. Why is it that other EU countries can defend their interests, yet Britain’s leaders are so helpless? Do the British people just elect a poorer class of national leader? After all, which PM agreed to QMV and Britsih membership of the ERM?

  10. It’s just not true that commissioners take no interest in their home countries interests. I know this from having spoken to commissioners.

  11. “Money which, by the way, Britain will have no say in spending,..”
    “, this time without British ministers and commissioners fighting the British case.”

    You jest!

    We already have no effective say, but meekly roll over, gold-plating any EU diktats.

    Open Europe calculate that the cost of our EU ‘membership’ over the past decade alone has been £148billion.

  12. I think you’re both under the impression that a country’s commissioner represents his or her member state and that state’s interests. Not so. Such behaviour is specifically prohibited by the treaties.

    Every member state provides a commissioner, whose oath of allegiance is to the EU, not to his or her home country. The men and women give an undertaking before the European Court of Justice: “to be completely independent in the performance of my duties, in the general interest of the Communities [ie the EU]; in the performance of these duties, neither to seek nor to take instructions from any government [ie their own back home] or from any other body”.

  13. OF: I agree with you. I have no problem with Britain having the same relationship with the EU that it has with the US. You guys can be Blair to our Bush!

  14. Olly: interesting points. British MEPs can be outvoted. This is not exactly a new concept. Can’t Kent or Surrey MPs be outvoted too in Westminster, even if they all vote together? You are right. The UK only has 1 commissioner out of 27. As has Germany. And France. And Ireland. What’s the problem?

  15. If only we did have some control

    sadly MEPs get to make no legislation, only vote on it
    The Vote always goes the way the commission wants, even if all UK MEPs vote one way they still can be and often are over ruled

    We have only 1/27 Comissioners, so we don’t have a big say in that
    In fact Britain barely has any say at all, so we would be losing basically nothing, seeing that it is the unelected Commission who make all the decisions

    Outside the EU any membership fees would be significantly elss than the £50m a day we currently pay
    The £120bn a year worth of damage to our economy would also be gone

    Plus no common external tarrif so we can freely trade with all nations, including the EU as opposed to being purely limited to trading freely with the EU

    Countries like Switzerland havent done too badly being outsdie the EU have they, indeed they reckon that EU membership would and does cost most EU countries around 4% of their GDP.

    So to sum up, we would save Billions, be able to trade freely, we lack influence in Brussells anyway so we arent actually losing out, we regain our soverignty and the freedom to elect our leaders, make 100% of our laws not just 25% and our Economy would prosper

    Lets get out, Now

  16. “British manufactured products will still have to obey EU regulations and standards to be sold in the EU, this time without British ministers and commissioners fighting the British case”

    When the Brits sell cars to the USA they have to put the steering wheel on other side. I’m sure other manufacturers will cope.
    British ministers do not fight for the British case. Even if they did they would come up against QMV.

    “Britain will now be able to speak for Britain at the WTO”

    So the Brits could lower the discriminatory EU tariffs placed on goods from the developing world? Much of Africa will be very pleased with that. Thanks!

    “I look forward to eurosceptics looking across the English channel at the 150-200 million integrated economic behemoth that they will have little or no control over”

    Does Britain have any control over the economic behemoth that is the USA? Or China? Why should it?

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