Cover image - © Lafontaine – May 2014

The (dis)United Kingdom and the European Union
Research project
April 2015

Authors
Sciences Po Paris graduate students

Marie Agard, 21
French
Masters in European Affairs

Pierre-Yves Angles, 21
French
Masters in French Public Affairs

Manon Bouché, 22
French and British
Masters in European Affairs (group coordinator)

Irini Hajiroussou, 24
Cypriot and British
Masters in European Affairs

Irini Hajiroussou, 21
Cypriot and British, Master of European Affairs

Charles Hart, 22
British
Masters in Economics and Business

Christiane Van Ophem, 22
Dutch
Masters in International Public Management (PSIA)

Coordinators from Atelier Europe : Thomas Mimra and Quentin Perret

Table of contents
Abstract and methodology P.1

I- The UK's Historically Ambiguous Relations with the EU P.2
A. The UK as a Historical Outsider to the EU P.2
B. Deconstructing the Idea of the UK as a Reluctant Partner to the EU P.5
C. Other Diplomatic Relations of the UK P.7
II- UK Internal Politics and the (dis)United Kingdom P.10

A. National Divides and the (dis)United Kingdom P.10
B. Party Politics and the (dis)United Kingdom P.14
III- The United Kingdom and the European Union P.19

A. The Failing EU system and its Perception in the UK P.19
B. The Immigration Debate and the Free Movement of People P.21
C. The Economic and Financial Implications of EU Membership P.24
IV- A Comprehensive Overview of the Different Options after May 2015 P.29
A. The UK Stays in the EU without any Reform P.29
B. The UK stays in the EU with a Reform P.31
C. The UK exits the EU P.33

Appendix P.35
References P.36
Acknowledgements P.39

Abstract
This report aims at examining the role of the UK as a historical outsider to the project of European
integration by analysing the factors that led the UK to join the European project in the 1970s and
the factors that have affected its membership ever since. Pertinent issues relating to the UK-EU
relationship have been analysed. These issues include: the UK’s historical trajectory as a colonial
power and a special ally to the US, its unique notion of sovereignty based on national institutions,
the internal national divides between England, Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales, party politics
and the positions of the major UK parties on the European question, the influence of the media, the
recent rise of the immigration question, and the economic and financial implication of EU
membership. The possible scenarios of a British exit following a referendum in 2017 have also been
examined. These scenarios consist of: the UK remaining in the EU without reform, the UK
remaining in the EU after some reform have been achieved, the UK leaving the EU, and any
alternative models of potential UK-EU cooperation.

Methodology
This report is the product of a group project by six Sciences Po Master Students. The methodology
followed includes a series of personal interviews with academics, politicians and business people
involved in European matters. The interviews were conducted either in person, over the phone, or
by email over the course of the months of November 2014 to April 2015. The material that has
informed this report has also resulted from academic research into the historical and current
relationship between the United Kingdom and the European Union; multiple books, academic
articles, research papers, and polls were consulted. The coverage of UK-EU issues in the press was
also monitored, both at the UK level and internationally.

The (dis)United Kingdom – April 2015 – 1

I- The UK's Historically Ambiguous Relations with
the EU
A. The UK as a Historical Outsider to the EU
Throughout history the UK has been the European Union’s “awkward partner”1. Its involvement in
European integration has often been somewhat incomplete; indeed some have suggested that it has
acted as a brake on the integration process, at least with respect to the emergence of a politically
and socially unified Europe. This perception arises directly from the history of UK-EU relations,
throughout which the UK has provided only distant and conditional support to the construction of a
united Europe.
During the first phase of the UK-EU relationship, dating from 1945 to 1973, which corresponds to
the period prior to its accession to the European Community, the UK chose to remain in the
background, watching the European process develop without getting formally involved. However,
during this period we can already find the grounds for its participation in the European project that
began in 1973. Between 1973 and 1997, the UK became a model of partial integration, leaving the
door open to the “multi-speed” Europe that is still in effect today. Nevertheless the last twenty years
have seen increasing Euroscepticism in the UK, a trend that is at the core of concerns regarding
both future UK-EU collaboration and the current position of the UK in the EU.
1945-1973: the UK in the Background of the Construction of Europe
In contrast to its European neighbours, the United Kingdom was a victor of the Second World War.
Due to the fact that the War was fought on European soil, causing immense economic and
humanitarian losses, the countries of continental Europe felt very strongly about the European
project as one promoting peace and making war “not merely unthinkable, but materially
impossible”2. The European project, in all its different manifestations, was designed to deal with
unsatisfactory politics, whether that was post-war politics between the members of the European
Coal and Steel Community or the corrupt and inefficient national politics commonplace in the
southern countries of Europe3. The UK on the other hand never saw itself as broken, neither after
the Second World War nor in more recent times, as its colonial empire was preserved and its close
bond with the United States was maintained, if not reinforced. As a consequence, it did not feel an
urgent need to cooperate, in economic and political terms, with its European neighbours in order to
rebuild and enhance its global influence.
British behaviour during this period could be described as ‘reserved benevolence’. Churchill, in his
speech at the University of Zurich (1946), symbolised this position by advocating the model of the
“United States of Europe” which he endorsed by claiming that “In this way only will hundreds of
millions of toilers be able to regain the simple joys and hopes which make life worth living”4, all the
while never intending for the UK to be included in the European ensemble. Overall, the British
were not opposed to the establishment of a European entity but, while this support was forthcoming
in principle, the UK did not wish to be full and active participants. Their first concern, which has
subsequently become a common theme running throughout British Euroscepticism, was the defence
1

George, Stephen. An awkward partner: Britain in the European Community. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1998.
Schuman, Robert. "The Schuman Declaration." (1950).
3
Simms, Brendan. Personal Interview. 09 January 2015.
4
Churchill, Winston. "Speech to the Academic Youth." Zürich, Switzerland (1946).
2

The (dis)United Kingdom – April 2015 – 2

of the UK`s national sovereignty. Indeed, the UK has a strong parliamentary tradition, which makes
any form of supranationalism less likely to be accepted.
However throughout the 1960s the picture gradually changed. The economic conditions in the UK
steadily worsened, which reinforced the divergence between the growth of the British economy and
those of its European neighbours. In the 1960s and early 1970s, the economies of the European
Community (EC) experienced robust economic growth with their GDP per capita rising by 70 per
cent in the period between the end of the Second World War and the early 1970s5. The UK on the
other hand was performing relatively badly; in the third quarter of 1973 GDP had fallen by 3.3 per
cent and had been falling for five quarters prior to this date6. Therefore, the UK had little choice but
to join the EC7 as, in doing so, it was perceived to be harnessing itself to a much stronger economic
engine8.
The decision to engage in more collaboration with Europe was therefore clearly based on pragmatic
grounds, the priority being to secure Britain's economic and geopolitical influence on the global
scale. However, the UK’s membership of the European Free Trade Association (EFTA) between
1960 and 1973, seen as a viable alternative to full European participation, turned out not to be as
beneficial or effective as was hoped. Alongside these developments, the ability of the UK to
provide strong international leadership exhibited its bounds, partly due to the political cooperation
between the European Community and the United States that threatened the previously privileged
transatlantic relationship between the USA and the UK. “The ratio between the political cost (in
terms of sovereignty) and the economic benefit from the accession to the common market was
henceforth in favour of the latter”9.
But the UK had to wait until 1961 for the first accession negotiations to begin, under the
Conservative government of Harold Macmillan. The first two attempts, in 1963 and 1967, were
both hindered by the French President Charles De Gaulle, who used his veto to deny the UK
membership on both occasions. The UK, in the eyes of France, was a Trojan Horse employed by the
US to extend its influence over Europe who also had specific demands regarding some core
European policies. The most noteworthy of these being the UK’s questioning of the terms of the
Common Agricultural Policy, which was very dear to the French, and the contributions to the
European Budget required from individual nations. However, following the accession of Georges
Pompidou to the French Presidency in 1969, the UK’s path to Europe was once again open.
As a result, the 1970s saw the UK make a delayed and rather unenthusiastic entrance into the
European Community. From being an external observer more preoccupied with strengthening its
relationship with the USA, pragmatic considerations led the UK to European membership. The UK
became an inside-outsider shaping, in its own way, the future of Europe.
1973-1997: the Construction of a Multi-Speed Europe
In 1973, the outsider came in: the UK, alongside Ireland and Denmark, joined the European
Community. Its outsider reputation did not however change simply with membership. Furthermore,
the European Community was at that time going through a relative economic decline, having been
5

Balcerowicz, Leszek. "Economic Growth in the European Union." Lisbon Council E-Book (n.d.): n. pag. Lisbon
Council. Growth and Competitiveness Commission, 2013-14. Web. 2015.
6
"Inflation Report." Bank of England (n.d.): n. pag. Feb. 2009. Web.
7
Kassim, Hussein. Personal Interview. 11 February 2015.
8
Hazell, Robert. Personal Interview. 05 January, 2015.
9
Schnapper, Pauline. Le Royaume-Uni Doit-il Sortir De L'Union Européenne ? Paris: La Documentation Française,
2014. Print.

The (dis)United Kingdom – April 2015 – 3

caught up in the world economic crisis. Given this context, the UK predominantly experienced the
drawbacks of its membership rather than the potential benefits. With Labour the winner of the 1974
elections, and having pledged in its campaign to renegotiate the terms of its membership, the
referendum process was set in motion in 1975. When the possible Brexit (*British Exit of the EU)
referendum of 2017 in mind, it is important to note that so far, the sole referendum on the UK’s
membership of the European Community occurred in that year, at the initiative of Labour Prime
Minister Harold Wilson. The UK joined the EC as a collaborative, confederal, but primarily
economic project. It was never Britain’s intention to join a group intended on ever-closer political
union10. At the time of the 1975 referendum the pro-European campaign did not make a case about
European identity, their argument was principally a pragmatic and economic one. One could argue
that there was a misunderstanding of sorts as to where the European project was headed when the
UK joined, or even that the British elite misled the public. In voting ‘yes’ to joining the EC, the
British public were not made aware of all the potential ramifications such a decision would
involve11. With a victory for continued membership in the referendum, the UK's anchoring to
Europe seemed to be confirmed, but this is not to say the issue was resolved. It continued to be an
ambivalent member at best, regardless of the Labour and Conservative leaders who succeeded each
other.
Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, of course, left a permanent imprint on the British attitude
towards the European Community. The ‘differentiated integration’ became a leitmotiv during her
mandate. The financial contribution of the UK to the European Budget was one of the main issues
at the time, and contributed to this struggle for a ‘multi-speed Europe’. The Dublin summit in 1979
crystallised these tensions, with Thatcher’s famous “I want my money back” epithet, which resulted
in the UK's contribution being reduced at Fontainebleau in 1984. At the same time, the UK also
refused to take part in the European Monetary System, and accepted in extremis the electoral system
by universal suffrage to the European Parliament. The number of ‘opt-out’ provisions increased
during the Thatcher era and under her successor, the Conservative Prime Minister John Major who
succeeded Thatcher in 1990. Again, the UK sat on the sidelines and refused to participate in any
deepening of European integration or any development towards a more politically and socially
united Europe.
Thatcher’s Bruges speech revealed the British position towards the European Community: they
were not inherently against the notion, but support was conditional on the maintenance of the UK’s
national sovereignty and provided that European membership did not infringe upon the national
identity or characteristics. This position forced the UK to be permanently on the defensive
regarding the ‘continent’. The Maastricht Treaty, which left a bitter taste in the mouth of a majority
of European countries, was considered a great success on the British side: references to federalism
were shrugged off, moves towards a more social Europe were not enforced and the UK was able to
reject its participation in the ‘Schengen acquis’. However, it did see a shift from a Community to a
Union and the reinforcement of European citizenship. This time is characterised by the UK’s
increasing scepticism of the European Union. In the 1990s, a strong Eurosceptic movement
emerged and consolidated itself. The more European integration advanced, the stronger British
animosity towards it turned out to be.
1997 - Today: a wave of Euroscepticism submerging the UK
The most recent period of the UK-EU relationship has seen Euroscepticism emerge as a
mainstream, legitimate concern of both the British public and its political class, regardless of
political affiliation, although several degrees of Euroscepticism exist.
10
11

Simms, Brendan. Personal Interview. 09 January 2015.
Kassim, Hussein. Personal Interview. 11 February 2015.

The (dis)United Kingdom – April 2015 – 4

Positive signals were sent to Brussels from London when, the leader of the Labour Party, Tony
Blair came to power in 1997. He pledged his willingness to set the country up as a leader in the
European Union, through a less obstructive and more proactive attitude. Subsequently significant
progress was made, notably on the Common Security and Defence Policy (CSDP) in 1998, the
Lisbon Council in 2000 and a generally positive assessment of the 2005 British Presidency of the
Council of the EU. But Eurozone membership was a non-starter, despite Blair being in favour of it
in principle. Gordon Brown, Blair's Chancellor of the Exchequer at the time, was deeply convinced
that the differences between the UK’s economy and those of continental Europe were too
fundamental to adopt a common currency. From 2007 onwards Brown, as Prime Minister, showed
himself even less enthusiastic towards the adoption of the Euro, particularly as he was confronted
by a Eurosceptic wave of public opinion, which called for a referendum. The 2008 global financial
crisis also played a role in reinforcing the distance with the EU and the Eurozone.
Some assume that the UK has entered a process of ‘European deconstruction’. Although the UK
never truly accepted the European project, it seems to be prepared to break away from the European
Union, which is seen as a constraint harming British interests and infringing on its sovereignty and
national attributes. Throughout recent history, the UK can indeed be regarded as an outsider, whose
opinion has quietly evolved from a relative detachment towards undisguised hostility.
B. Deconstructing the Idea of the UK as a Reluctant Partner to the EU
Since joining the European Community in 1973, the UK has gained the title of ‘reluctant partner’ in
all matters concerning the European project. But does the UK really deserve this title? Many factors
are at play behind the UK’s lacklustre enthusiasm, and at times even outright unwillingness, to
participate in European integration. What's more, the UK has had and still has a much more
important role to play in the European project than it is given credit for.
British Perceptions of the European Project – A Historical Perspective
For many of the years between the 1970s and 2000s, despite the existence of a marginal, albeit
constant, element of Euroscepticism in British politics, the general perception of the European
project was one of relatively quiet contentment12. In the UK, debate historically focused on certain
Treaty reforms and new legislation, such as the Working Time Directive. However, it did so within
the framework of the EC or EU, and in doing so contributed to the debate regarding the direction
that the European project should take. It was generally accepted that if one is part of the EU one
must abide by its law-making process, and the EU is a very efficient legislative machine that has
produced thousands of regulations and directives. Despite debate about their content, there were not
many objections in the UK about the actual system itself simply because it was from elsewhere13.
Furthermore, many European countries regard the UK as a strong ally, notably through numerous
bilateral collaborations. France is a key example of this, with Franco-British defence and security
cooperation still being very much in force today fuelled by France’s desire to develop the role of the
UK as a counterweight to German predominance in the Union. Where then does the UK’s ‘reluctant
partner’ title come from? British reluctance for European integration might currently be at an alltime high but it has historical roots and reflects internal divisions and features unique to the UK.

12
13

Craig, Paul. Personal Interview. 20 January 2015.
Craig, Paul. Personal Interview. 20 January 2015.

The (dis)United Kingdom – April 2015 – 5

A British take on Sovereignty
The current debate has focused greatly on the question of sovereignty and whether or not the UK
has ceded too much of it to the EU. This preoccupation with sovereignty is revealing of the very
unique notion of sovereignty that exists in Britain. There is a sense of a separate sovereign Britain
based on institutions such as the Parliament, the army, and the currency, as well as control of the
nation’s borders. The UK wants to retain control over its borders and this can be seen in the fact that
it never joined the Schengen zone14. However, the sovereignty question extends far beyond border
control. The notion of sovereignty in Britain is conceived in a dual manner, firstly there is
parliamentary sovereignty that depends on the constitutional principle that Parliament is the highest
power in the land. As such, any primacy of EU law and any European Court of Justice (ECJ)
decision against the UK is a direct affront against Parliament. Secondly, there is a notion of
historical sovereignty stemming from the idea of Britain undefeated in war and not invaded since
1066. Upon joining the European project in the 1970s, the issue of sovereignty was not raised.
Edward Heath spoke of pooled sovereignty in his speeches, but the idea of losing sovereignty to
Europe is a new one15. Keeping in mind Britain’s unique take on sovereignty and given
developments in the EU (such as the opening of borders and the establishment of EU law as
supreme over national law), one is better able to understand the reluctance towards European
integration shown by a portion of the British public and British political class.

British Perceptions of the European Project – A Contemporary Perspective
Despite the media attention the EU is receiving currently in the UK, issues including the Common
Market and the Single Currency are not at the top of the British public’s concerns16. According to
polls conducted by Ipsos Mori, when Britons were asked to identify the most important issues
facing the UK in 2014, EU-related issues scored between 6 and 12 per cent. Issues such as crime
(11 to 16 per cent), defence (7 to 23 per cent), education (12 to 17 per cent) and the economy (30 to
41 per cent) consistently ranked as more important17. For some of the policy areas Britons are most
worried about, namely crime and education, the EU does not have exclusive competences; and for
defence it does not have any competence. Therefore the perception of the UK as an actively anti-EU
force is due in a large part to the rise of the United Kingdom Independence Party (Ukip) and the
‘noise’ they create rather than an actual anti-European sentiment characterising the entire country.

Relative Support for EU Membership
Despite appearances, support for continued membership in the EU in 2014 was at a 14 year high
with 61 per cent of those surveyed in an Ipsos Mori poll stating that the UK should remain in the
EU18. However, in another poll in the same year participants were given the choice between further
integration, continued EU membership under current conditions, returning to an economic
community without political links, and leaving the EU. While only 17 per cent opted for leaving the
EU, 34 per cent expressed the desire to go back to an economic community without political links,
29 per cent were content with the current conditions of membership and only 14 per cent wanted to
see further integration19. As can be seen here, the UK is not as reluctant a partner as some would
14

Simms, Brendan. Personal Interview. 09 January 2015.
Kassim, Hussein. Personal Interview. 11 February 2015.
16
Hazell, Robert. Personal Interview. 05 January 2015.
17
"European Union Membership - Trends." Ipsos MORI. N.p., 22 Oct. 2014. Web. 2015.
18
"Preferences for Britain's Future Role in Europe." Ipsos MORI. N.p., 22 Oct. 2014. Web. 2015.
19
"Issues Index: 2007 Onwards. The Most Important Issues Facing Britain Today." Ipsos MORI. N.p., 25 Mar. 2014.
15

The (dis)United Kingdom – April 2015 – 6

have it. Furthermore, the UK has a directive transposition deficit of only 0.3 per cent, well below
the EU-wide deficit of 0.7 per cent. It also takes the UK 4.8 months on average to transpose
directives, whereas the EU average is 7.5 months20. Therefore, despite both the increasing
arguments against integration heard within the UK as well as an innate Euroscepticism based on
notions of a unique British sovereignty, the UK is still overall in favour of the European project and
not as reluctant to implement it within its own borders as might be perceived. However, these
Eurosceptic tendencies should not be ignored, as appetite for further integration is low and the calls
for a re-evaluation of the conditions of Britain’s membership to the EU seem to be getting louder.

C.

Other Diplomatic Relations of the UK

Nostalgia and Fantasy around Churchill’s “Three Circles”
On October 9th 1948, Winston Churchill made a speech at the Congress of Conservatives. While
the UK had started to feel its influence decline during the aftermath of the Second World War and
the growing intensity of decolonisation, he defined the international policy of the realm as
organised around three circles, classified by strategic importance. First amongst these circles, in
terms of significance, was the US-Anglo Saxon domain, second came the Commonwealth and the
colonies of the UK, and Europe came third. Following the era of decolonisation, the rise of the EU,
the end of the Cold War and the emergence of new economic powers, one is fully aware of how the
‘three circles’ model is irrelevant in the present day. However, this model shaped the British
consciousness as well as giving rise to a certain contempt of Europe and the EU.
A Certain Perception of the UK and its National Pride opposing the EU
As the 19th century French sociologist and historian André Siegfried ironised: “The UK is an island,
and I shall stop here”. Since its colonial era and throughout the 20th century, the UK has developed
a feeling far from shared on the continent: the one of being an independent and self-sufficient
power.
The UK’s colonial history has played an important role in the development of its national identity.
By the end of the 18th century, after the loss of its North-American colonies and the onset of the
industrial revolution, the mastering of the British Empire and its development became essential to
the prosperity of the UK. This nostalgia of the wealth brought by the Empire as led to favouring the
Commonwealth as a trade partner and refusing the first trade agreements the EU proposed.
One should also keep in mind how the UK has always regarded Europe as a potential threat to
contain. The UK has always wanted to make sure no strong continental power would rise for it
could threaten its own land. Therefore, UK alliances changed throughout histories (Spain, France,
Russia, or Germany), depending on the rising power to oppose. It was all about ensuring a “balance
of powers”. After the Second World War, an alliance with the US, the promotion of the Marshall
plan in Europe (1947), and the creation of NATO (1949) helped ensure the USSR would not take
over the continent.
The negative perception of Europe as a threat or a burden is still prevalent in the UK. In her speech
at the Conservative Party Conference in Blackpool (1999), Margaret Thatcher said: “In my lifetime,
all the problems have come from mainland Europe, and all the solutions have come from the
Web. 2015.
"United Kingdom." The EU Single Market. The European Commission, Nov. 2014. Web. 2015.

20

The (dis)United Kingdom – April 2015 – 7

English-speaking nations across the world”21. A certain belief in British uniqueness still exists too.
In 2013, Cameron stated: “We have the character of an island nation - independent, forthright,
passionate in defence of our sovereignty. We can no more change this British sensibility than we
can drain the English Channel.”22
The EU has been regarded as a threat throughout history by the UK. During the 1970s, it was an
economic partner to deal with. Nowadays, it is an administrative sovereignty-thirsty Leviathan.
However, since joining the EU, the UK has had a huge influence on its economic development and
legislation. Most of the external trade of the UK is carried out with the EU. The diplomatic strength
of the UK might also be sustained by strengthening the EU. The UK’s recent past seems to reveal a
trend towards isolationist tendencies and a slight withdrawal from the international scene. Even
though it is part of the UN Security Council and has one of the strongest economies and armies in
the EU, the UK has refused to play an active role in the resolution of the Ukrainian crisis and has
left the responsibility to France and Germany. In comparison with France, the UK’s presence and
role in Africa are also minor. This weakened position of the UK on the international scene is due to
the recognition of the failures of the UK in Iraq and Afghanistan as well as the associated costs of
those interventions. The Lord Chamberlain recently ordered reports on this noticeable withdrawal
from participation in international affairs. Enrico Letta echoes this view of UK isolationism and
states that the British diplomatic triangle (US – UK – Commonwealth) is no longer relevant23.
Adrian Pabst considers this phenomenon started in 1956 with the Suez crisis when France and the
UK were robustly outmuscled by the US and the USSR24. Since then, one can argue the UK has
stopped considering its world influence independently of the support it receives from the US.
Is the UK a “Satellite of the US”25?
The UK has always had close relations with the US. This exceptional alliance is one of reasons why
the UK seems to approach involvement with the EU cautiously. The UK-US cooperation is
economic, diplomatic, military and related to their intelligence agencies, as illustrated by the 2013
Edward Snowden scandal. In September 2013, a scandal also broke that claimed that the UK’s
intelligence service of the Government Communications Head Quarters (GCHQ) hacked the
Belgian telephone operator Belgacom in 2011 in order to provide the US’s National Security
Agency (NSA) with access to valuable information concerning the provider’s infrastructure.
Regarding UK-US cooperation, one may also remark that the UK has followed the US into a
number of conflicts during the most recent decades (the Gulf War in 1990, Afghanistan in 2001,
and Iraq in 2003).
After the Second World War, the UK strengthened their relationship with the US as a means to
provide for stability in Europe. With the Suez crisis, the UK acquiesced to the leadership of the
Americans and aligned their foreign policies with those of the US. According to Adrian Pabst the
reasons behind this similar alignment are “to do with a lack of imagination as much as a lack of
courage”26. Even though France’s reputation was as similarly harmed as the UK’s following the
post-Suez crisis fallout, the policies of De Gaulle and France’s active participation in the European
project served to uphold the independence and strength of France during the Cold War. De Gaulle
also developed an independent nuclear force in France while the development of a nuclear weapon
by the UK relied on US technology. It is in this context that De Gaulle refused to let the UK join the
21

Thatcher, Margaret. Conservative Party Conference. UK, Blackpool. 06 Oct. 1999. Thatcher Foundation. Web. 2015.
Cameron, David. EU Speech at Bloomberg. 23 Jan. 2013. Gov.UK. Web. 2015.
23
Letta, Enrico. Personal Interview. 17 March 2015.
24
Pabst, Adrian. Personal Interview. 2015.
25
Guénolé, Thomas. Personal Interview. 2015
26
Pabst, Adrian. Personal Interview. 2015.
22

The (dis)United Kingdom – April 2015 – 8

EEC in 1963 and 1967 for they would be a ‘Trojan Horse’ of the US in the organisation.
Since joining the EU, the UK has made sure to remain close to the US. For example, until Tony
Blair came to power, the UK strictly refused to entertain the idea of a common European defence
policy. During periods of the 20th century, the influence of the cooperation between the US and the
UK at an international level cannot be overstated. For instance, the unique cooperation of Ronald
Reagan and Margaret Thatcher during the 1980s is a clear example of how these two nations can
cooperate and set up major changes in the world. Nowadays, the US is strongly in favour of the UK
staying in the EU for doing so best supports their interests. For example, the UK is very supportive
of the US-EU Transatlantic Free Trade Agreement (TAFTA) currently under discussion in Brussels.
However, the idea of the UK being the ‘Trojan Horse’ of the US can no longer be maintained.
Despite these strong connections between the UK and the EU, Adrian Pabst feels international
alliances are changing. Britain is no longer punching above its weight but is increasingly seen as a
liability by the US, not least due to draconian defence cuts and an inability to carry out military
interventions, such as Libya (2011). The US is switching its focus from the UK to other allies in
Europe. Countries like the Netherlands, or parties and leaders such as the Spanish or French centreright wing are strong supporters of American interests. The strategic partnership between NATO
and the EU has given the US a means to influence the development of the EU’s defence policy and
ensure that an EU defence arm more independent from NATO does not come into existence.
Additionally, the relationship is important to the EU since its common military capacity is limited.
Were a Brexit to occur, the UK could not rely on the special relationship with the US alone to
compensate for the economic loss and declining status on the international scene that exiting the EU
would bring about. Ireland offers a much better example of how to balance close ties with the US
and an open desire to be involved into the EU system. However Eurosceptic the population might
be, the UK seems to perceive to a greater and greater extent how the EU might be of economic and
diplomatic value to the UK in the near future. When asked with whom the UK should have the
closest international ties with, 56 per cent of British people answered with the EU when only 25 per
cent of the population suggested the US.

The (dis)United Kingdom – April 2015 – 9

II-

UK Internal Politics and the (dis)United
Kingdom

A. National Divides and the (dis)United Kingdom
Having seen how international ties influence the UK’s relationship with the EU, it is now time to
consider domestic influences that shape it. The general trend is to look at the United Kingdom as a
single entity that presents a common hostility to the European project. Such a perception however is
not only fallacious but also overly simplistic. While the UK has to take into account the growing
animosity of public opinion towards the European Union, it must also reflect on its own internal
divides. Made up of four nations, the UK has been home to a revival of increasingly strong claims
for further devolution and even independence in the past years. In order to tackle the Brexit debate
in a more comprehensive way, it is therefore essential to better understand the national divides that
exist within the UK.
Northern Ireland's unique relationship with Great Britain and the Republic of Ireland since the
Home Rule project began in the mid 19th century, and the climate of violence that emanated
thereafter, makes it a fascinating issue which is nevertheless too complex and specific to study here.
Consequently, we shall be focusing on national divides at the level of Great Britain, between
England, Scotland, and Wales.
The Scottish Independence Referendum
The cleavage in politics and identity between these nations was brought to light in a particularly
striking way by the Scottish independence referendum on September 18th 2014. When British Prime
Minister David Cameron and Scottish First Minister Alex Salmond signed the Edinburgh
Agreement on October 15th 2012, instating the protocol for the referendum to come, only around a
quarter of the Scottish electorate stated that they would vote ‘yes’ to independence. Considering the
actual result of the referendum, which saw 45 per cent of Scots claiming their independence, it is
therefore safe to say that Westminster underestimated the risk that such a referendum would pose to
the existence of the Union. This result is all the more impressive seeing as the referendum took
place under circumstances that should have seen a more sweeping victory for the Pro-Union
argument. Indeed, the coalition government in place since 2010 has never hidden its strong
opposition to the breaking up of the British entity. Parallel to this the alleged ‘Britishness bounce’
brought about by the events of the summer of 2012 – not to mention the Queen's Jubilee and the
London Olympic Games – could have made the Scottish independence referendum a non-starter.
However, it could be that the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow and the Edinburgh Festival in the
summer just preceding the referendum, propitious to patriotic gatherings and the brandishing of the
saltire, participated in strengthening the manifestations of Scottish identity.
This relative victory at the referendum, with a much higher result than could have been anticipated
even a few weeks before the actual vote, seems to have been somewhat underestimated in the press.
This overwhelming vote in favour of the ‘yes’ undoubtedly constitutes a real statement, and is in all
probability due to the obvious gap in quality of the opposing campaigns leading up to the
referendum. While the umbrella organisation ‘Better Together’, representing pro-Union supporters,
based its campaign on the risks of a separation rather than on the benefits of a unity (despite its
name), ‘Yes Scotland’ managed a proactive and highly visible campaign. A whole ten months
before the referendum, the Scottish government, led by the Scottish National Party since May 2011,
published a White Paper entitled “The Future of Scotland” which, although shrouded in
“Whitehallese” vocabulary, was clearly a first attempt at a political manifesto towards

The (dis)United Kingdom – April 2015 – 10

independence. In the months following, ‘Yes Scotland’ kept on working towards increasing its
visibility, notably by rallying volunteers for door-to-door ‘yes’ campaigning. A strong and
charismatic leadership, officially led by former Labour member Dennis Canavan but quickly
overshadowed by Alex Salmond and his second-in-command Nicola Sturgeon, also achieved
further visibility. The lack of charisma and persuasive power of the ‘Better Together’ leader Alistair
Darling participated in weakening the ‘no’ camp, to the advantage of ‘Yes Scotland’. The
aggressive tone in which Salmond made his pro-Independence arguments, accusing his opponent of
being “in bed with the Tories” on a BBC Scotland debate27, weighted public opinion in favour of a
‘yes’ to independence.
In this seemingly unstoppable ascent of favourable Scottish public opinion towards the
independence of their nation, a YouGov poll for The Sunday Times on September 7th 201428 that
predicted a victory for the ‘yes’ campaign for the first time (51 per cent to 49 per cent) marked an
undeniable turning point. For the first time in two years, Westminster and the defenders of the
Union realised that they could actually lose Scotland. In the last ten days before the vote, a massive
counterattack saw the multiplication of various statements given by a number of different
protagonists29: five Scottish banks including the Royal Bank of Scotland threatened to transfer their
headquarters to London in case of an independence vote in the referendum, David Cameron
together with other unionist parties drew up a set of commitments towards devolution max (without
the requisite parliamentary approval), and even the Queen announced that voters should “think very
carefully about the future”, subtly suggesting a pro-Union tendency of her own. It is difficult to
assess the direct influence of this “panicky late sprint”30. On September 18th however, 55 per cent
of the Scottish electorate, in a massive turnout (97 per cent of those registered, the electoral roll
being open to all those older than 16), chose to maintain the 307-year-old Union.
Longstanding Claims for Scottish Self-Governance
This is not to say that the long-standing claims put forward during the campaign have disappeared.
Following the referendum, Lord Ashcroft directed a poll looking into the various themes behind the
‘yes’ or ‘no’ votes. While the vote for ‘no’ was dominated by the fear of having to let go of the
pound sterling (57 per cent), when asked to name two or three reasons that decided their vote proindependence Scots chose dissatisfaction with the status quo in the relationship with Westminster
(74 per cent), the National Health System (54 per cent), tax and public spending (33 per cent), and
oil (20 per cent)31. Concerning the latter, defenders of an independent Scotland believe that London
is unjust in claiming ownership of the profits resulting from oil production in the North Sea, and so
on Scottish territory. While this was a major argument in past decades, it was not put forward that
much during the 2014 campaign, and for good reason. Indeed, not only can we observe the benefits
of oil in Scottish cities like Aberdeen, considered as the “Dallas of the North”, it is also a fact that
the grant of the British executive towards Scotland is the highest in the whole of the UK, including
Northern Ireland. Although the question was only partly raised last year, it is also undeniable that
there are major conflicts between Holyrood and Westminster concerning nuclear power. By
showing their clear opposition to it, Scottish leaders proved once again their political ingenuity. The
theme of nuclear power has always been a source of internal divisions in national party politics,
especially for Labour. Following its disastrous campaign in 1983 that led to the re-election of
27

Salmond, Alex, and Alistair Darling. Interview. Scottish Independence: Salmond v Darling Debate as It Happened.
BBC. Glasgow, 25 Aug. 2014. Television.
28
Shipman, Tim, and Jason Allardyce. "'Yes' Leads in Scots Poll Shock." The Sunday Times. YouGov, 07 Sept. 2014.
Web. 2015.
29
Jacques Leruez. Personal Interview. 23 February 2015.
30 Stacey, Parker, Dickie, and Rigby. "Scottish Referendum: How Complacency Nearly Lost a United
Kingdom." Politics and Policy. The Financial Times, 19 Sept. 2014. Web. 2015.
31
Lord Ashcroft. "How Scotland Voted and Why." Lord Ashcroft Polls. N.p., 19 Sept. 2014. Web. 2015.

The (dis)United Kingdom – April 2015 – 11

Margaret Thatcher as Prime Minister, the official line of opposition to nuclear power was partly
responsible for the major reorganisation of the party.
However, these arguments only seem to take second place in comparison to the overwhelming
dissatisfaction with Westminster. While Scotland is traditionally dominated by support towards
Labour, it is indisputable that the party has not been able to adapt to the system imposed by the
1998 Scotland Act that led to the creation of a Scottish Parliament. It would seem that with the
exception of Donald Dewer, who instigated this devolution process, Labour has never been able to
provide Scotland with a powerful leader to stand up to London, leaving only the “second eleven” at
Holyrood. For powerful leaders such as Gordon Brown, the target position will be found in
Westminster and not in Scotland, even though Cameron's predecessor still enjoys considerable
popularity in Scotland, as confirmed during his speech in Maryhill in Glasgow the day before the
referendum, calling his compatriots to vote against independence. In this context of weak Labour
leadership in their nation, it is therefore not surprising that an increasingly high number of Scots
(including former Labour militants) would turn to the Scottish National Party (SNP), a Scottish
party able to put forward its best elements in the competition for government. Although the SNP
lost the September 18th referendum, the criticism of the state of devolution in the current status quo
is more than ever back on the table, with a growing feeling among Scots that “we can govern our
own nation”32.
The Welsh Devolution Dissatisfaction
This phenomenon is not exclusive to Scotland, however, with Wales also moving towards further
recognition of their nation in the British context. It is safe to say that the Scottish referendum was
one of the grounds for this new impetus in the Welsh devolution debate. Just like Scotland, Wales
saw its powers increase under the Blair government with the creation of the National Assembly for
Wales under the Government of Wales Act in 1998. Since then, the devolution system in place has
been a major issue in Welsh politics and lack of progress in this issue has increased support for the
Plaid Cymru National Party of Wales. Although it has yet to breakthrough to an extent comparable
to that achieved by the SNP, the nationalist party is gaining more visibility, notably through its
presence on television debates. With Wales and Scotland coming back to the fore, Westminster can
no longer ignore the pressing demands from two of its nations. As a first – and very marginal –
attempt to respond to these claims, David Cameron and Nick Clegg presented the devolution
package for Wales, planning for a transfer of power on energy, port development and voting
arrangements, on Saint David's Day last February.
The Rise of Englishness
However, as a result of this very visible opposition to the status quo both in Scotland and Wales, the
British government can no longer ignore the more discreet but very real rise in “Englishness”.
Although the political class has chosen to ignore this issue, it is most certainly not going away and
there is reason to believe it will become increasingly pressing in the years to come, which will
compel the different parties to adopt a clear position regarding the division of powers within the
Union. While no less than twenty years ago, English citizens were claiming British national
identity; the current trend is to assert one's English identity over one’s British identity. This
phenomenon is particularly prevalent in supporters of the Conservative party, and overwhelmingly
so among Ukip voters. This change in the English population's perception of its identity finds its
roots in what can be summarised by the West Lothian question, which is to say that a growing
32

Hutchings, John. Personal Interview. 26 March 2015.

The (dis)United Kingdom – April 2015 – 12

fringe of the English population believes that government should introduce a system of “English
votes for English laws”. In other words, the question asks why Scottish, Welsh and Northern Irish
MPs should be able to vote on English laws in Westminster, when the reverse is not true. Indeed,
while the other three nations of the UK have devolved institutions governing their internal
legislative issues, England has no such institution and is represented solely by British institutions
shared between four nations. For both these reasons, Englishness claims are steadily increasing,
despite the British manifestations of patriotism during summer 2012. Paradoxically, although
Ukip’s strategy is based on putting forward British identity to explain the rejection of the European
Union, it is not predicted to return an MP from outside England in the 2015 General Elections and
has become the party most representative of general trend towards Englishness.
The European Issue in National Divides
The European question, although only of secondary importance in these national divides, it was
only chosen by 12 per cent of the ‘yes’ voters and 15 per cent of the ‘no’ voters as one of the main
factors deciding their vote at the Scottish referendum for example, is still worth noting. Indeed, it is
apparent that the UK is facing growing Euroscepticism. Although this is true, this trend is very
much concentrated in England. On the other hand, Scotland and Wales present a pro-European
front, with only 16.5 per cent of the population of Scotland believing that the Britain should seek to
leave the EU for example, with their nationalist parties defending the idea of an independent nation
accessing full membership to the EU, despite former Commission President Barroso stating that it
would be “extremely difficult, if not impossible”33 for an independent Scotland to join the EU. It is
very difficult to ascertain where this crucial dual position towards Europe comes from, but it is
possible to advance the notion that it might be due to the successful regionalist policies instated by
the EU34.
This national divide on this issue of Europe could be crucial if a Brexit referendum were to take
place in the UK, as the electoral system put in place could influence the result. During the leaders
debate on April 2nd 2015, Leanne Wood, the leader of Plaid Cymru, suggested that if a referendum
on the future of the UK in the EU were indeed to take place, votes should be counted up on a
national basis to prevent Wales being taken out of the EU solely due to the Euroscepticism of the
English population. The SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon subsequently supported this proposition
during the same debate. The influential SNP leader has even called on Westminster to guarantee
Scotland a veto on any future referendum on the UK’s EU membership, a procedure known as a
‘Double Lock’. If this method were adopted, there is every reason to believe that both Scotland and
Wales would vote against a British exit and would therefore block the process for the English, were
they to vote for it.
The Rise of the SNP in the lead-up to the General Elections
However, a discussion of the possible manifestations that an ‘In-Out’ referendum in 2017 could
take is premature as the general election on May 7th will have significant ramifications for it,
including whether or not it will even take place. This is particularly meaningful when looking at the
incredible rise of the SNP, which has truly become a force to be reckoned with in Scotland. While
the Scottish population represents only nine per cent of the British electorate, the SNP could win
more than twice the number of seats won by the coalition Liberal Democrat Party, who stand
prospective candidates throughout the UK and not solely in Scotland as the SNP does. With 6 seats
33

"Scottish Independence: Barroso Says Joining EU Would Be 'difficult'" Scotland Politics. BBC News, 16 Feb. 2014.
Web. 2015.
34
Letta, Enrico. Personal Interview. 17 March 2015.

The (dis)United Kingdom – April 2015 – 13

in Westminster today, the SNP is forecast by some to win 54 out of the 59 available seats, and in
doing so reduce the number of seats that Labour currently holds (the Conservative Party stands to
lose less from the SNP surge as it has had few MPs in Scotland since 1997). The polls have given
increasingly high numbers for the Scottish nationalists in a linear and constant way, numbers that
bear witness to leader Nicola Sturgeon's astounding popularity throughout the country. Following
the 7-way leaders debate held prior to the general election, she was said to have won by more than
one opinion poll, and her impact and persuasive rhetoric were certainly comparable to those of
Cameron, Miliband, and Farage. In the days following the debate, some English voters even asked
if they could vote for the Scottish party on May 7th. If the numbers in the polls translate into reality,
there is no doubt that this will be a huge statement for Scottish defenders of independence, but it
will also more than ever bring back to the table the issue of the post-devolution situation for
Scotland but also for Wales, Northern Ireland, and England, already at the forefront of this electoral
campaign.
B. Party Politics and the (dis)United Kingdom
The Conservative and Unionist Party (The Conservative Party) – the reluctant Europeans
Once described by William Hague as a “ticking time bomb” that threatened to destroy the
Conservative Party, perhaps no issue has proven more divisive amongst party members in recent
history than the role that the United Kingdom should play within the European Union, if any at all.
British Conservatism rests on two key principles: the maintenance of free-trade liberalism and the
support of the social and political values of the national state and identity. At most points in time,
the attitude of the Conservative Party with regard to the EU has been dictated by which of these
tendencies holds sway.
Prior to the 1980s, the former prevailed and so the removal of trade barriers and creation of a
continental common market resulted in Conservative pro-EU policies, culminating in the UK’s
membership of the European Economic Community in 1973 under the leadership of Edward Heath,
the Conservative Prime Minister. However, beginning with the rise of Margaret Thatcher, the party
has become increasingly associated with opposition, or at least recalcitrance, to closer economic
and political union. Growing Euroscepticism has been driven by both the specific and the general;
while individual issues such as the British budgetary contribution, the Euro, and immigration have
certainly fuelled anti-EU sentiment in some corners of the party, there has also been a wider
retaliation against a perceived secession of sovereignty to the EU caused by its growing
involvement in and interference with domestic affairs. This is demonstrated as early as 1988 in
Margaret Thatcher’s speech in Bruges in which the then Prime Minister argued, “…working more
closely together does not require power to be centralised in Brussels or decisions to be taken by an
appointed bureaucracy.35”
In recent times, the Conservative Party has consistently upheld its image as a Eurosceptic agent in
British politics, seen as a legacy of Margaret Thatcher’s “normalisation of awkwardness as a
government position” with regard to the EU by Dr Simon Usherwood36. In 2008, the Conservative
Party opposed the ratification of the Lisbon Treaty, described by the then Foreign Secretary
William Hague as giving the EU “unwarranted power” over British life, and called for a public
referendum on it. However, the Conservatives subsequently lost a vote on this proposal and the EU
(Amendment) Bill, which ratified the treaty, passed through the House of Commons by a majority
of 346 to 206. In order to prevent further power being transferred to the EU without public
35

Thatcher, Margaret. "The Bruges Speech." Speech to the College of Europe. Belgium, Bruges. 20 Sept.
1988. Thatcher Archive. Web. 2015.
36
Usherwood, Simon. "The Conservative Party and Euroscepticism." E-International Relations. N.p., 11 Nov. 2012.
Web. 2015.

The (dis)United Kingdom – April 2015 – 14

approval, David Cameron, the Conservative leader, demanded in 2009 that all future treaties be
subject to a referendum (known as a ‘referendum lock’), which became law with the passing of the
European Union Act in 2011.
In January 2013, the Conservative Prime Minister David Cameron promised the UK electorate an
‘In-Out’ referendum on the UK’s EU membership during the next Parliament, despite stating that
he himself would campaign for the UK to remain in the EU. This guarantee rests on two conditions;
firstly, the return of a Conservative majority in the general election to be held later in 2015 and a
failure, within the first half of the subsequent government, to achieve certain (as yet undefined)
reforms to existing EU treaties. Deliverable or not, this announcement represented a further
escalation of anti-EU rhetoric from an increasingly Eurosceptic party and should the 2015 general
election result in a Conservative majority, currently an unlikely outcome according to polling
figures, there will be an ‘In-Out’ referendum. Furthermore, should the Conservative Party come up
just short of a majority, it may be able to reply upon the small number of MPs that Ukip and the
Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) are predicted to return as well as a few Labour and Liberal
Democrat rebels in order to get EU referendum legislation through the House of Commons, as long
as David Cameron is able to form a working majority in Parliament.

The Labour Party – the ambiguous Europeans
Akin to the Conservative Party, the Labour Party’s attitude towards the EU has evolved over time;
although, in contrast to the Conservatives, the Labour Party’s view of the EU has on the whole
become increasingly positive as it has evolved. The only referendum on the subject of the UK’s
continued EU membership occurred in 1975 under a Labour Government, led by Harold Wilson,
who committed to renegotiating the terms of the UK’s membership in its 1974 manifesto. While
Wilson’s government officially supported the campaign to remain in the Common Market, the
Labour Party membership rejected continuing EEC membership by a margin of almost 2:1 in 1975
and the issue was so contentious within the party that Wilson suspended the unwritten constitutional
custom of Cabinet collective responsibility, thus allowing Cabinet members to campaign according
to their individual consciences. In total, 148 Labour MPs opposed the government’s 1975
Referendum Bill, in excess of the 138 who supported it.
Labour’s opposition to the Common Market was based on a number of issues, including: an
apparent loss of national sovereignty, the threat that membership would lead to unemployment, an
attachment to the Commonwealth (particularly as trade partners) that the EEC was perceived to
interfere with, and a perception that the EEC was not a suitable vehicle to bring about the socialist
agenda sought after by many party members. Furthermore, the cost the Common Agricultural
Policy and the potential rise in food prices resulting from trading bloc’s protectionist policies were
not considered to be in the best interest of British workers. Other concerns of the time were
reflected in the diaries of Tony Benn, one of the leading anti-European Labour MPs at the time,
“It’s bureaucratic and centralised, there’s no political discussion…”37.
The roundabout turn in Labour’s views regarding the EU that began to occur in the early 1980s and
reached its fruition with the election of Tony Blair as Labour leader in 1994, later to be perceived
by many as one of the most pro-EU Prime Ministers in British History, was essentially a pragmatic
one. During the so-called “Wilderness Years” between 1979 and 1997, while the Labour Party
remained out of power and socialist governments were taking office across Europe, a change in the
Labour Party’s intellectual thinking took place. The notion of a ‘superior’ British Labour movement
was abandoned and replaced by a growing appreciation of the limitations that individual states

37

Winstone, Ruth. Tony Benn: Conflicts of Interest: Diaries 1977-80. London U.a.: Hutchinson, 1990. Print.

The (dis)United Kingdom – April 2015 – 15

faced when trying to unilaterally improve the conditions of their working class38. A speech by
Jacques Delors, the then President of the European Commission, to the British Trade Union
Congress in 1988 emphasised the beneficial effects that the EC would have for workers.
Additionally, there was a growing appreciation amongst members of the Labour Party that many of
the basic rights set out in the European Social Charter in 1961, signed by Tony Blair in 1997,
embodied similar aims to their own, in particular the various protections given to workers.
In 2015, Ed Miliband, the current Labour Party leader, vowed not to hold a referendum on the UK’s
membership of the EU in the coming parliament stating that “There could be nothing worse for our
country or our great exporting businesses than playing political games with our membership in
Europe.39” However, the Labour Party has pledged to restrain and reform the EU budget and to
ensure that EU migration does not lead to the undercutting of workers’ wages in Britain. This is in
part a response to the rise of the Blue Labour movement, launched in 2009, which argues that
support for the Labour Party can be won by appealing to certain socially conservative beliefs,
tougher controls on immigration and crime for instance, and that the internationalism of New
Labour, embodied in the treatment of the EU by Tony Blair, has led the Labour Party to ignore the
threat that low skilled immigrants pose to British workers.

The Liberal Democrats – the reliable Europeans
The Liberal Democrats are widely perceived to be the most pro-European of the major political
parties in British politics. The party was formed by the 1988 merger of the Liberal Party and the
Social Democratic Party, initially formed by Labour dissidents (the ‘Gang of Four’) who left the
party in 1981 following party policy changes that called for a withdrawal from the EEC. In Europe,
the party’s pro-EU credentials are echoed in their choice of parliamentary group, the Group of the
Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe, which is “one of the most vocal groups in favour of
European Union (EU) integration” and a “firm supporter of the European single market40”. Having
governed during the most recent parliament term (2010-2015) in a coalition with the Conservative
Party, it is yet unclear if the Liberal Democrats would be willing to enter a similar coalition during
the next government due to David Cameron’s pledge to hold a referendum on the UK’s EU
membership.

The United Kingdom Independence Party (Ukip) – the dismissive Europeans
In terms of its attitude towards Europe, Ukip can be placed at the polar opposite end of the spectrum
to the Liberal Democrats. The party’s primary policy is to bring about the withdrawal of the UK
from the European Union, which it argues has become excessively bureaucratic and powerful in
relation to nation states. Ukip rejects the idea of renegotiating or reforming the UK’s relationship
with the EU because the party argues that this is fundamentally not possible given the legal
structures of the EU and the unwillingness of its leaders and other member states to see the UK
reform the structures and treaties of the EU. As such, the party is committed to withdrawal as
swiftly as possible and so has encouraged voters to vote for Ukip in order to use the upcoming
general election as a referendum on the EU in itself.
Ukip has experienced a large increase in popularity since 2012 which some have argued has taken
support away from the Conservative Party and led to David Cameron’s increasingly aggressive
38

George, Stephen, and Deborah Haythorne. "The British Labour Party." (1993): 12.
Wintour, Syal, and Perraudin. "EU Referendum Will Play Havoc with Business, Ed Miliband Warns." The Guardian.
N.p., 30 Mar. 2015. Web.
40
Phinnemore, David, and Lee McGowan. A dictionary of the European Union. Routledge. 277. 2013.
39

The (dis)United Kingdom – April 2015 – 16

stance on Europe. In March 2014, Ukip received the greatest number of votes out of any British
party in the European Parliament elections, having been given ‘major party status’ by Ofcom, the
broadcasting regulatory authority, prior to the elections. Defections to Ukip by Conservative MPs
and subsequent by-election victories gave the party their first two MPs and clearly defined the
threat that Ukip poses to Conservative support. In the Clacton by-election, the Conservative MPturned-Ukip-candidate Douglas Carswell, encouraged Ukip support to rise 60 per cent from the
2010 election outcome, while Conservative support fell by 28 per cent41.

National Divides and the rise of the Scottish National Party (SNP)
The recent independence referendum has led to a surge in support for the SNP due in part to the
collapse of the Labour vote in Scotland which has been caused by its support for the ‘No’ campaign
during the referendum and its perceived alliance with the Conservative Party on the same issue.
Furthermore, the increased spotlight on the SNP and its policies has led to a greater appreciation of
the role that they could play in Westminster, amplified by a widely held disillusion with the
‘traditional’ parties of Westminster. This represents a shift in the previously common view that the
SNP could only have an impact on national issues at Holyrood that led to voters tending to ignore
SNP candidates in UK elections in favour of candidates from the unionist parties. Additionally,
there is a concern that Westminster will not come through on its promises for the further devolution
of powers to Scotland unless there is a sizeable SNP presence in Westminster.
A recent YouGov poll has shown that the Labour Party could lose as many as 30 Scottish seats to
SNP candidates in the upcoming general election42, thereby reducing the likelihood of Labour
securing a parliamentary majority and leading some to suggest that the SNP may hold the balance
of power after the May 2015 general election. A secondary effect of the SNP’s surge in popularity
in Scotland, at the expense of the Labour Party, may be to increase the likelihood of the
Conservative Party being the largest single party after the 2015 election as the Conservatives stand
to lose almost no MPs to the SNP given their already low polling in Scotland and the fact that the
party currently only has one MP north of the Anglo-Scottish border.

41
42

"Ukip Gains First Elected MP with Clacton Win." BBC News. N.p., 10 Oct. 2014. Web. 2015.
Kellner. "SNP Remains on Course for a Landslide." YouGov. N.p., 13 Mar. 2015. Web. 2015.

The (dis)United Kingdom – April 2015 – 17

Political Compass of Major UK Political Parties (2015)43

43

Guénolé, Thomas. Personal Interview. 2015

The (dis)United Kingdom – April 2015 – 18

III-

The United Kingdom and the European
Union

A. The Failing EU system and its Perception in the UK
Democratic Deficit of the EU and Disappointment with Brussels
The EU seems increasingly unpopular and the idea of a transnational organisation exerting its
influence in both the economic and political spheres of national life leaves citizens sceptical. This is
even more so in a context of economic crisis. This facilitates the rise of extreme political parties
spreading “a new and ugly rhetoric of division and hatred”44. The UK stands as a more sceptical
country than its neighbours. Even though some are common to all EU countries, five major reasons
behind Euroscepticism in the UK can be put forward.
The first one is a rejection of technocracy. Beyond the discontent felt by many towards politics and
politicians, at both the European and the national level, there is a feeling that those in charge of the
EU have an undesirable thirst for integration that they have attempted to push through regardless of
the cost to Europe’s people. The backlash has been growing against the “impersonal forces of
technocracy”45, which have perhaps been exaggerated, that seem to have stripped sovereignty away
from many national governments.
A broad misunderstanding of European institutions, their missions, and their functioning amplifies
such rejection. This lack of education is largely a fault of European leaders who refuse to put
European politics forward since doing so would pose a threat to their own power. With some even
going as far as making contradictory statements such as trying to sell the idea of a “social Europe”
to others while implementing harsh austerity policies at home. National leaders can use the EU as a
scapegoat in order not to take responsibility for unpopular policies themselves.
Just like European citizens, UK citizens perceive a democratic deficit into the EU administration
which affects its credibility and legitimacy. In the UK, leaders have promised many referendums on
European issues since the 1990s but none of them has been implemented (1997 on the Euro
currency, 2004 on the constitutional treaty, 2007 on the Lisbon treaty, 2010 on the sovereignty of
the UK). One can imagine how citizens feel ignored when European issues are discussed.
A further factor that undermines the credibility of the EU in the eyes of its citizens is that many of
of its leaders seem to be unable to provide strong leadership and to be of unremarkable calibre. Both
John Kiddy and François Duluc alluded to the low quality and lack of experience of some of the
leaders sent to Brussels, principally for the purpose of removing them from national politics. John
Kiddy46 reflects that European citizens would have never elected personalities like Van Rompuy or
Barroso if direct election had taken place. François Duluc illustrates this point with the poor
experience and stature of Catherine Ashton, the former High Representative of the Union for
Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, who was a relative unknown in the UK prior to her
nomination47.
Since its inception, the UK has always been very critical and suspicious of the Euro and secured an
opt-out from the section of the Maastricht Treaty that would have required it to join the common
44

Alexander, Danny. “Building a Better Europe: Making the EU fit for the Challenges Ahead”. l’Institut d’Études
Politiques de Paris, Jan. 23 2015.
45
Pabst, Adrian. Personal Interview. 2015.
46
Kiddy, John. Personal Interview. 2015.
47
Duluc, François. Personal Interview. 2015.

The (dis)United Kingdom – April 2015 – 19

currency. This negative perception worsened with the economic crisis of 2008. It could be argued
that the events of 2008 were in part due to the financial sector deregulation of the 1980s and 1990s
that received strong support from certain groups in the UK. However, the UK media focused much
of its criticism on the Eurozone and poor fiscal management by certain EU member states. Enrico
Letta raised the possibility of the EU pursuing integration only amongst Eurozone countries48. The
UK would keep most of the advantages of the system without acting as a braking force or
continuing to develop Eurosceptic sentiments.
The Gap between the UK and the Continent is not only geographical but also cultural - more
than the Channel, a deep cultural gap stands between the UK and the Continent.
In the UK, there is no sense of European identity and not a lot of cultural affinity with the continent,
especially regarding political traditions. Philippe Marlière recalls that the UK joined the EU for
strictly economic and strategic reasons, ultimately rejecting all attempts of federalism49. François
Duluc summarises this entrenched attitude by saying the following about the UK: “They don’t have
a common approach; they have a very selfish approach to Europe.”50
Euroscepticism in the UK does not have to do with a lack of information on the EU but with the
perception of sovereignty, Britain’s position in Europe and its unique historical trajectory. In the
British consciousness, there is a very clear sense of a separate and sovereign UK. Therefore, the UK
is always quite reluctant to sign new treaties that go against its tradition of constitutional flexibility.
The UK also gives huge importance to its parliamentary sovereignty, regarded as a key part of its
national identity. In this light therefore, the direct universal elections of the European parliament
places Brussels as a potential threat to British independence.
EU-Bashing within the UK media
As Thomas Guénolé puts it: “The collective perception of reality is conditioned by its depiction by
the media”51. The media influences political agendas by shaping public opinion. Here comes one
last reason of Euroscepticism in the UK: most of the media are Eurosceptic and frequently describe
EU weaknesses and its so-called “uptake of national sovereignty”. When they are told to associate
“the EU” with a list of words or concepts, 60 per cent of British people associate it with
“bureaucracy” and only 12 per cent with “democracy”.
Since 2014, contributions to the EU budget and migration have been the most common arguments
raised against the EU by Eurosceptics. Despite the EU’s defence that the demand came from new
rulings that had been recognised and accepted by the UK, the press became quite vocal when the
UK was asked to contribute more to the EU budget (October 2014). In this precise case, was it
Cameron’s views that drove the press towards Euroscepticism or was it the press who forced
Cameron to declare quite categorically that he would not pay up? The rise of Ukip, along with the
growth of Eurosceptic media, makes criticising Brussels more and more in vogue, which pushes
Euroscepticism to the forefront of political discussion.
The most Eurosceptic media are probably those owned by the rather Conservative, Eurosceptic and
influential Rupert Murdoch (The Times, The Sun, News of the World). Even though he was born in
48

Letta, Enrico. Personal Interview. 17 March 2015.
Marlière, Philippe. Personal Interview. 19 December 2015.
50
Duluc, François. Personal Interview. 2015.
51
Guénolé, Thomas. Personal Interview. 2015
49

The (dis)United Kingdom – April 2015 – 20

Australia, Murdoch is a “Thatcherist” and British nationalist whose influence has led to suggestions
that he led Tony Blair into not adopting the Euro. The Murdoch Empire has put all its might against
the EU, taking a very pro-US stand and representing the EU as a Soviet-style system. Newspapers
like the Daily Telegraph or the Daily Mail, who used to adhere to Thatcher’s views on Europe, have
also grown increasingly Eurosceptic.
Most anti-EU mainstream press is not professional in how it reports. It is biased and ideologically
motivated. The tabloid press is particularly violent, almost xenophobic. The UK is one of the only
countries in Europe where the main media outlets do not have a correspondent in Brussels. They get
their news from lobbies in Westminster. One shall also bear in mind that even more in the UK than
in the rest of Europe, “most media are owned by huge corporations, capitalist moguls and
tycoons”52. Therefore, they tend to put forward “what is overall good for business”. This often
implies criticising EU rules when they oppose free market policies.
The only newspapers regarded as Europhile in the UK are The Guardian and The Independent, but
they have a smaller and more middle/upper-class readership.
B. The Immigration Debate and the Free Movement of People
The single market principle, one of the core principles of the EU, is made possible in part by the
free movement of people. Recently this principle has been put under threat by the immigration
debate in the UK, which has recently come to a focal point. Public attitudes towards migrants have
been thoroughly documented in the UK providing a useful platform for investigating the salience of
the immigration issue in the public sphere as well as its relative presence in the press and political
rhetoric. Has the immigration angle provided political parties with the ideal tool to manipulate their
respective electorates to take their preferred side on the Brexit debate?
What is the Debate in the Public Sphere about?
The concern of the public and public attitude, or opinion, is of great importance for the UK
relationship with the EU as it has the potential to foreshadow the expected outcome of the possible
referendum in 2017. In terms of salience, issues such as jobs, health, education, crime, and public
safety are arguably at the top of the list of issues important to most voters, surpassing the
importance attached to the UK-EU relationship53. This is only natural as these issues are more
tangible to the UK public. Specifically in relation to the EU, the top concerns are national
sovereignty (for 28 per cent of the sample) and the free movement of people (17 per cent)54. These
two factors converge in the immigration debate as changes to migration policy in the UK will
inevitably involve other EU actors, something which is troubling to those pressing for immediate
change.
The parameters of the debate are important for analytical purposes especially to understand the
public attitudes and the types of reform to which are aspired. For example, there is a difference
between counter-immigration attitudes for cultural and for economic reasons; an attitude
discriminating against certain nationalities or an all-encompassing one; and one which looks to
change EU migration policy even if it were to restrict movement for UK citizens abroad. The
52

Marlière, Philippe. Personal Interview. 19 December 2015.
Hazell, Robert. Personal Interview. 05 January 2015.
54
Raines, Thomas. "Internationalism or Isolationism? British Attitudes Towards the UK’s International
Priorities." Europe Programme (n.d.): n. pag. Chatham House. Chatham House and YouGov, Jan. 2015. Web. Feb.
2015.
53

The (dis)United Kingdom – April 2015 – 21

figures for the latter group are quite telling: 49 per cent of the public would still support the limiting
of free movement even if it restricted their own movement. This opinion is more popular amongst
Ukip and Conservative voters, with 77 per cent and 66 per cent respectively55. In today’s economic
climate it is not surprising that research regarding public attitudes shows that the immigration
debate is framed in terms of economic consequences rather than cultural: the issue regarding
welfare benefits made available by the state for migrants arriving in the UK is leading the debate.
Aside from this aspect, Adrian Pabst points out another stratum of the population who join the
debate principally for economic reasons, namely workers and their communities that are hurt by the
free movement principle due to the fact that they themselves are attached to a place, locality, and
family, more than to mobility. For this reason, in his opinion, it is right to restrict the free flow of
labour, just like the free flow of capital56. That the immigration debate is being driven by economic
concerns is further illustrated by the fact that 47 per cent of those interviewed for the 2014 British
Social Attitudes Survey are of the opinion that migrants from other countries coming to Britain are
either ‘very bad’ or ‘bad’ for the economy57.
Public perceptions have a great influence on public opinion: perceiving the number of immigrants
in the UK as considerably higher than it really is or perceiving their economic contribution relative
to their economic drain as smaller significantly affects public opinion. The difference in perception
versus reality regarding the size of the migrant population in the UK in 2013 is striking: “the
public’s average guess at what proportion the foreign-born population make-up of the UK is 31 per
cent, compared with the official estimate of around 13 per cent”58. Another important aspect
influencing public attitudes is the perceived reason for migration. Figure 1 (see appendix p.35)
illustrates the perceptions in the UK as to the make-up of the migrant community. Evidently,
immigration for the purpose of study has been understated in the public sphere and the number of
asylum seekers is grossly overestimated leading to the negative connotation associated with
migration overshadows the positive interpretation of it.
Public Attitudes, the Media, and the Political Agenda
The perceptions versus the reality of the migrant situation in the UK differ significantly. This
naturally leads one to question the sources of information feeding said perceptions. However, the
relationship between the media, public opinion, and political rhetoric is complex and determining
the direction of a causal relationship between these factors is even more so. Several different
approaches have been developed to define the relationship between the public and the political
sphere in the UK: negative public opinion about immigration induces the state to enact restrictive
state immigration policies; public opinion is overshadowed by business interests and desire for
economic growth; or public opinion responds to immigration policy59. The relationship between
public attitudes and the media is described by the agenda-setting theory, which states “the media
agenda is transferred to the public agenda as a concern deserving response or action”60, is most
relevant to the immigration debate in the UK. The negative portrayal of immigration in the media
has had a large role to play in the prominence of the immigration debate in the public sphere.

55

Raines, Thomas. 2015.
Pabst, Adrian. Personal Interview. 2015.
57
"Key Findings." British Social Attitudes 31. NatCen Social Research, 2014. Web. Apr. 2015.
58
Duffy, Bobby, and Tom Frere-Smith. Perceptions and Reality. 2014.
59
Picard, Robert G. "Public Opinion, Party Politics, Policy, and Immigration News in the United Kingdom." (n.d.): n.
pag. Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism. University of Oxford, July 2014. Web. Apr. 2015.
60
Picard, Robert G. 2015.
56

The (dis)United Kingdom – April 2015 – 22

The Framing of the Immigration debate in the UK Press
One aspect fuelling the immigration debate in the UK is the fact that coverage in the UK is more
Eurosceptic than compared to media outlets in continental Europe. Philippe Marlière puts this down
to the influence of those running the UK media, Rupert Murdoch in particular, as opposed to the
‘capitalist moguls and tycoons’ looking to promote the free market who are running the media in
continental Europe61. Looking at the framing of the immigration debate in the UK press there is a
divide between “communitarian and cosmopolitan frames”, or those for tightening immigration
control and those praising mobility. Since 2014 there has been a clear switch from cosmopolitan
frames to communitarian frames with the rising concern about welfare tourism. The framing by UK
newspapers of issues relevant to the migration debate between 2010 and 2012 are telling of the kind
of message put out into the public sphere by the media: there is a focus on the number of migrants
across the board frequently using words like ‘millions’ and ‘thousands’; words to do with religion
and family were often used in connotation to immigration; migration was framed using the words
‘jobs’, ‘benefits’, and ‘economic’; and, finally, the most common descriptor for the word
‘immigrants’ for all newspaper types was ‘illegal’62. Taking a step back and looking at the overall
newspaper coverage, Figure 2 (see appendix p.35) illustrates the relationship between the
newspapers read and the importance of immigration over time. The increase in overall salience of
the immigration debate over time is clear, but one should not assume a causal effect; if anything the
choice of newspaper reinforces already established views regarding immigration.
The Immigration Debate and the UK Political Sphere
For some parties the immigration debate stood as synonymous for the EU debate whilst for others it
was a popular, relatable aspect of the EU debate around which to frame their campaign, the perfect
tool to get voters to synchronise with their EU campaign. Marlière suggests that David Cameron is
part of the latter group implying that he is putting emphasis on the immigration debate to appease
public opinion, but that there is no real, significant intention for change behind it. Meanwhile, Ukip
is on the rise in this respect. In fact, Nigel Farage has used this particular aspect of the EU debate
which has reached the public sphere to his full advantage as he struggles to connect with the voters
on issues such as economics and sovereignty: “the charge that we have ‘lost control of our borders’
links an issue that people care little about (Europe) with one that they care a lot about
(migration)”63. Ukip has made the immigration debate integral to the EU debate, which is
unfortunate for other parties who would have rather moved on from this debate to avoid talking
about their mistakes in tackling immigration in the recent past64. Ukip has laid out a very clear
approach to immigration: reduce immigration down to 50,000 people a year; increase UK border
staff by 2,500; tougher English language tests for those seeking permanent residence; opting out of
the Dublin treaty; and priority for UK passport holders65. This shift in focus for Ukip has attracted
voters to the party and increased the gap between their constituents and those of the Conservative
party.

61

Marlière, Philippe. Personal Interview. 19 December 2015.
"Portrayals of Immigrants, Migrants, Asylum Seekers and Refugees in National British Newspapers, 2010 to
2012." Migration in the News. Migration Observatory, Aug. 2013. Web. Apr. 2015.
63
Leonard, Mark. "The British Problem and What It Means for Europe." Policy Brief (2015): n. pag. The European
Council on Foreign Relations. European Commission, Mar. 2015. Web. Apr. 2015.
64
Dixon, Hugo. Personal Interview. April 2015.
65
"Manifesto Watch: Where Parties Stand on Key Issues." BBC News: Election 2015. N.p., 25 Feb. 2015. Web. Apr.
2015.
62

The (dis)United Kingdom – April 2015 – 23

C. The Economic and Financial Implications of EU Membership
Cost-Benefit Analysis of EU Membership
Membership of the EU impacts the UK economy through many channels66. Perhaps the most
important and well known of these is the EU Single Market, which maintains the ‘four freedoms’
(the free movement of labour, capital, goods, and services throughout the EU) in order to bring
about further economic integration amongst member states. Additionally, membership has an ongoing impact on the direction and size of UK trade; the EU not only has the exclusive right to
negotiate trade and investment deals with non-EU countries but also the power to impose external
tariffs on goods imported into the customs union. The fiscal contributions that the UK is required to
make to the EU budget have economic implications, as do the effects of EU subsidies and external
tariffs on consumer prices. Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) flows to the UK may also be dependent
to certain degree on its membership of the EU.
Any analysis of the costs and benefits of the UK’s membership of the EU is immediately beset by a
number of striking difficulties. Firstly, the suitable approach to such analysis is by no means agreed
upon, thus making comparisons either problematic or impracticable. Those who argue that
membership in the EU imposes a net cost on the UK typically take a static view and sum all its
various effects within a given year. Conversely, those who maintain that the UK is better off as a
result of its membership take a dynamic approach to the issue and conclude that over time the
longer-run effects, such as economic integration and access to the EU Customs Union, have been of
a net benefit to the UK. Secondly, the capacity to make a judgement on the positive or negative
effect of EU membership is limited by the absence of a reliable counterfactual and so comparisons
must be made to abstract scenarios, the underlying assumptions of which will clearly shape all
subsequent conclusions. This also illustrates a substantial difficulty of assessing the likely impact of
a Brexit on the UK, which is the reliance of such analysis on the particular policy settings and trade
relationships one assumes to be most likely following such an event. Finally, the impact of EU
membership is in no way uniform across either the regions or various economic sectors of the UK,
West Wales for example is classified as a ‘less developed region’ (characterised by a per capita
GDP of less than 75 per cent of the EU average) by the EU and so is eligible for the highest level of
regional funding offered in the EU budget.
The EU’s single market utilises three levers to increase intra-EU trade: it eliminates all tariffs on
goods, it upholds the ‘four freedoms’ thereby allowing all factors of production to freely move
throughout the region, and it reduces the transaction costs associated with international trade by
unifying domestic business legislations and product compliances. According to the Office of
National Statistics, Britain exported goods and services worth £146 billion to EU countries in 2014,
which represented 47 per cent of the UK’s total export trade. Conversely, the value of imports from
EU countries in 2014 was £218 billion, comprising 53 per cent of the UK’s import trade. Analysis
by the Centre of Economic and Business Research (CEBR) shows that 3.1 million jobs in the UK
were directly supported by exports to the EU in 2011 and that 13.3 per cent of the UK workforce,
representing 4.2 million jobs, was associated with exports to the EU. As a result, total income
associated with export demand from the EU was £211 billion, which was equivalent to £3,500 per
head of the population in 201167. While it is clear that the EU is a major trading partner for the UK,
it is not as clear to what extent that this can be attributed to EU membership. Firstly, the UK’s trade
with non-EU members may be restricted by its own EU-membership. Although intra-EU trade is
not subject to tariffs, in accordance with the customs union, imports from outside the trading bloc
are subject to tariffs, which reduces trade inflows from extra-EU members. Secondly, trade flows
66

G. Thompson and D. Harari, “The Economic Impact of EU Membership on the UK”. House of Commons Library.
September 2013.
67
“Britain and the Single Market”, The Centre for Economic and Business Research. March 2014.

The (dis)United Kingdom – April 2015 – 24

between the UK and the rich countries of mainland Europe would in all likelihood remain high even
in the absence of the EU, on account of the proximity between their economies and resultant ease
and low transport costs of trading with each other. However, research by the Centre for European
Reform (CER) states that the UK’s trade with other EU members is 55 per cent greater than
expected, given the relative size of the members’ economies as well as other controls. Furthermore,
the CER claim that there is no evidence that this is in any part due to trade being diverting from
outside to inside of the EU. As such, by reducing trade costs with proximate prosperous trading
partners EU membership has increased the level of UK trade68.
Membership in the EU may also have led to an increase of FDI in the UK, due in part to the
substantial market size to which the UK, as a member of the EU, has access. In 2013 alone, $26.5
billion of capital investments were made in the UK, which represented a 19 per cent market share of
FDI in Europe. Ernst and Young described the UK has the most attractive location in Europe for
FDI in 2014 and placed the UK 5th in its global ranking of countries regarded as attractive for FDI
over the next three years69. While many of the reasons that explain the large FDI flows to the UK
are not related to its EU membership, its deep capital markets and English-speaking population for
instance, it is difficult to argue that membership of the single market has no effect – 63 per cent of
investors (and 78 per cent of Asian investors) say that the UK has an important role as a European
gateway70. Importantly, one of the main threats to the attractiveness of the UK as a FDI target is the
current uncertainty regarding its relationship to the EU.
The most direct cost of EU membership to the UK is the budgetary contribution that it is required to
make. The intended use of the EU budget, prepared by the European Commission is twofold; the
money is spent on projects that further the integration of the EU and is given to poorer governments
to fund projects they would not be able to afford themselves otherwise. The EU budget amounted to
€150 billion in 2013, of which the UK contributed €17 billion (less than Germany, France, and
Italy). However, the UK was the second largest contributor to the EU budget on a net basis, paying
in €10.8 billion more than it received. Beyond its usual annual contributions to the EU, the UK was
asked to pay an additional £1.7 billion to the EU on account of its superior economic performance
relative to other European countries (although the UK rebate will be applied to this amount)71. A
secondary cost of EU membership, not related to budgetary contributions, is the cost of adhering to
the substantial array of EU regulation. Open Europe72, using analysis provided by the UK
Government, have estimated that the cost of the 100 most onerous EU-derived regulations to the
UK economy stands at £33.3 billion per year (the most expensive regulation is the UK Renewable
Energy Strategy that has an annually recurring cost of £4.7 billion). While 95 per cent of the direct
benefits that the UK Government forecast would result from the adoption of these regulations has
failed to materialise, other benefits, such as the increased ease of trade resulting from a single set of
rules, are difficult to quantify.

Criticism of the EU’s Economic Performance
The most obvious criticism to make of the economic performance of the EU is that simply put it has
not been that impressive. From 1957 to 1973, at which time the UK joined the EC, the average
annual growth rates of Germany, France, the Netherlands, and Italy were all in excess of 4.5 per
cent and the average annual growth rate of the Inner Six (the previous four countries in addition to
Belgium and Luxembourg) was 4.9 per cent. In contrast, the UK grew at an average rate of 2.8 per
68

J. Springford and S. Tilford, “The Great British Trade-off – The Impact of Leaving the EU on the UK’s Trade and
Investment”, The Centre for European Reform. January 2014.
69
“The UK Attractiveness Survey 2014”. Ernst and Young, June 2014.
70
Ernst and Young. 19. June 2014.
71
"Who's Right: Osborne, Farage or the European Commission?" Open Europe. Blogspot, 07 Nov. 2014. Web. 2015.
72
"Top 100 EU Rules Cost Britain £33.3bn." Open Europe. N.p., 16 Mar. 2015. Web. 2015.

The (dis)United Kingdom – April 2015 – 25

cent over the same time period. However, this high growth in the EC was largely a result of
reversing the destruction of the Second World War rather by virtue of EC membership (this can be
seen in the high growth rates of other war-damaged nations who were not in the EC such as
Switzerland, Sweden, and Norway). Between 1980 and 2012 on the other hand, the UK grew at an
annual rate of 2 per cent and the Inner Six grew at an average rate of 1.6 per cent. During this
period the EU’s share of global GDP consistently declined and now stands at approximately 25 per
cent.
A number of reasons have been suggested for the EU’s relatively anaemic economic record, the first
of which concerns its trade policy. As previously mentioned, extra-EU trade is governed by the EU,
not individual member states, who impose a common external tariff on non-EU imports (in 2012
the average rate was 5.5 per cent but with enormous variety). It has been suggested that it is this
external tariff, and subsequent reduction in extra-EU trade, that has caused growth opportunities to
be missed by economies in the EU. It has acted to restrict its members’ ability to trade with the rest
of the world, whose impressive growth, stimulated initially by the GATT agreements and
subsequent trade liberalisation and later by globalisation, has outpaced that of the EU’s73.
The centralisation and bureaucracy of the EU have also been said to dampen economic growth. As
the process of political and economic integration in the EU has accelerated, there has been a parallel
trend regarding centralised decision-making – that decisions are being made increasingly far from
the people they affect and that the EU’s principle of ‘subsidiarity’, the principle that wherever
possible decision should be taken as close to affected citizens as possible, is being paid lip service
only. While the creation of a customs union removes trade barriers that can prevent the
specialisation of nation states, which Adam Smith identified as the source of prosperity, this benefit
is only applicable if open trade would not otherwise exist, otherwise the benefits of greater size are
less apparent. The optimal size of a nation can be thought of as a trade-off between the harnessing
economies of scale in the provision of public goods and the increasing difficulty of governing an
increasingly heterogeneous community that is not suited to a one-size-fits-all approach to policy74.
Of the 10 wealthiest countries in the world, on a GDP (PPP) per capita basis, the single one with a
significantly large population is the United States of America75, which benefits from a level of
decentralisation not commonly found across the globe76. A further criticism levelled at some of the
regulations and directives imposed on member states by the EU is that they are wasteful or
ineffectual. One of the most debated EU regulations, on the issue of whether or not it contributes to
the EU’s relatively inflexible labour markets, is the Working Time Directive (WTD), which costs
the UK £4.2 billion annually77, despite UK workers having the choice to opt-out of the 48-hour
week.
Despite being one of the most lauded achievements of the EU by pro-integrationists, the
introduction of the euro has certainly not been an unqualified success. Critics of the currency union
argue that the structurally divergent economies of the EU are not suited to the demands of a single
monetary union, especially in the absence of a corresponding fiscal union. Productivity differences
between the core and periphery economies of the Eurozone, exacerbated by higher prices in
economies such as Spain and Greece caused by the spending boom that access to the lower ECB
interest rates stimulated, were reflected in a competitiveness gap between the two which, in lieu of
an exchange rate adjustment, resulted in large and growing current account deficit in the economies
of the latter. Additionally, peripheral economies found their access to cheap financing greatly
expanded after their ascension to the euro and so governments, banks, and households all took on
73

Bootle, R. P. "Chapter 3." The Trouble with Europe: Why the EU Isn't Working and How Europe Can Be Remade.
Print.
74
Barro, R. “Small is Beautiful”. The Wall Street Journal. 11 Oct. 1991.
75
The International Monetary Fund Data.
76
Hannan, D., “A Doomed Marriage: Britain and Europe”, Notting Hill Editions Ltd. 2012. Print.
77
“Top 100 EU Rules Cost Britain £33.3bn”. 2015.

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high levels of debt with disastrous consequences during the sovereign debt crisis.

Brexit: Possible Manifestations78
1) European Economic Area Membership – the Norway Model
Joining the EEA would effectively allow the UK to remain in the single market, as the ‘four
freedoms’ are applied to all members and so tariff-free access to the single market is guaranteed.
Participating in the ‘four freedoms’ under the terms of the EEA agreement, Norway also
participates in EU justice, home affairs, and elements of foreign policy on a voluntary basis while
remaining free to choose its own agricultural, fisheries, regional, external trade, and foreign
policies. However, although this arrangement ensures high EU market access, EEA states have a
remarkably small say in the formulation of EU legislation, not being represented in the European
Parliament for by MEPs for instance, as well as limited scope to adapt or refuse implementation of
EU laws. In fact, this option would increase the UK’s independence from EU policy only slightly
(93 of the 100 most expensive EU laws would still apply to the UK for example) although it would
be able to negotiate its own Free Trade Agreements (FTAs) with non-EU countries and would not
be subject to ECJ jurisdiction.
2) Bilateral Trade Agreements – the Swiss Model
Switzerland is able to participate in certain elements of the single market as a result of bilateral
agreements that were made with the EU in 1999 and 2004 in exchange for Switzerland adopting
laws and regulations equivalent to those operating in the EU. Access to the single market falls
below that obtained by EEA members, cross-border services can only be provided for 90 days a
year for instance and, of particular importance to the UK, Switzerland has no agreement with the
EU concerning financial services. This uneven application of EU law is costly and creates a
complex legal framework that differs greatly by sector. In contrast to EEA members, there is no
mechanism for resolving legal disputes between the EU and Switzerland, although in practice
Switzerland adopts most EU law and convergence between the two systems is gradually taking
place. This set of arrangements would certainly give the UK more freedom from the EU than it
would experience as an EEA member, but it is not certain what agreements could be reached and in
what time frame negotiations would take place.
3) Abandon EU Membership
Were the UK to leave the EU, its trade relations would be governed by World Trade Organisation
(WTO) protocols. As such, the UK’s goods exporters would have no preferential arrangement with
the EU aside from the most favoured nation (MFN) tariff bestowed upon them by the UK’s WTO
membership and so would be faced with the cost of the EU’s common external tariff. Due to current
EU arrangements, access to the single market for services would be relatively more restricted than
for goods, but global efforts to liberalise services are growing in force and supported by the EU
itself. Evidently, the UK would lose any power to influence EU laws in this scenario while its
increased freedom would be larger than under the two previous arrangements.

78

“The Consequences, Challenges & Opportunities facing Britain outside the EU”. Open Europe. 23 March 2015.

The (dis)United Kingdom – April 2015 – 27

The City of London & Financial Services
In 2014 financial and insurance services79 contributed £126.9 billion in gross valued added (GVA)
to the UK economy, which represented 8 per cent of the UK’s total GVA in that year.
Approximately half of the GVA of the industry is accounted for by businesses in London and the
sector contributes 3.4 per cent (equal to 1.1 million) of all UK jobs. According to Her Majesty’s
Revenue and Customs (HRMC), the banking sector provided £21.4 billion in tax receipts in 2014 in
addition to money raised by the ‘bank levy’, introduced in 2011, that currently stands at 0.21 per
cent of banks’ liabilities.
The pivotal role that the banking industry occupies in the UK economy has resulted in growing
analysis and commentary on what a Brexit would mean for the sector. Analysis by Open Europe80
suggests that banking is the most exposed industry to a Brexit and where a deal allowing similar
access to that currently enjoyed by the industry with the EU will be the hardest to negotiate. Initially
the impact would be highly disruptive as financial companies may lose their cross-border access to
EU markets and so be forced to create international subsidiaries. The UK has a not insignificant
trade surplus in financial services with the EU (€19.9 billion in 2014) and so EU partners would
have a limited incentive in striking a mutually beneficial agreement (relative to an industry such as
the automotive sector where the UK has a trade deficit and so it is in the interest of other nations to
negotiate a deal in order to retain access to UK excess demand). Furthermore, currently the EU will
only grant cross-border access to EU markets to members of the European Economic Area (EEA),
an arrangement that would entail a significant loss of national sovereignty (similar to the position of
Norway) for the UK. The impact on FDI flows is unclear, while the high mobility of financial
services, which attracts 49 per cent of annual FDI flow81, may lead to business relocation much of
the UK’s FDI inflows are linked to the strength of its financial industry, many of which would
continue post-Brexit.

79

Taylor, G.. “Financial Services : Contribution to the UK Economy”, House of Commons Library. February 2015.
“The Impact of Brexit on the UK’s Key Export Sectors”, Open Europe. 09 March 2015.
81
Taylor, G. February 2015.
80

The (dis)United Kingdom – April 2015 – 28

IV-

A Comprehensive Overview of the Different
Options after May 2015

A. The UK Stays in the EU without any Reform
The first option to explore is the scenario of the UK staying into the EU without any reforms being
undertaken. Prime Minister David Cameron has indeed committed to renegotiating the conditions of
the British membership to the EU, and then promised to hold an ‘In-Out’ referendum in 2017. For
its part, Labour is in favour of EU reforms, but assures that, if elected, it will not organise a
referendum, unless there is a major transfer of powers from London to Brussels. The current polls
suggest that the battle for power will oppose Cameron and the Conservatives on one side, Miliband
and Labour on the other, under the arbitration of one of the Liberal Democrats, the SNP, or Ukip.
Currently the polls do not predict a clear winner on either side and frequently fluctuate; as such the
probability of a majority government is slim.
According to whether the referendum takes place or not, we can imagine two “sub-scenarios”,
provided that, in both cases, several reasons make the party in power unable to conduct any
reforms. In the first scenario there would be no referendum, whichever party wins the May 2015
elections. The second one would be to stick to the referendum promise and the vote resulting in a
“no” vote towards Brexit. Even though these options seem to be less disruptive than a Brexit,
assuming that nothing changes, the consequences could be substantial, especially for
Euroscepticism in the UK.
First Scenario: no referendum and no reforms
After the May 2015 elections, let us imagine that the referendum project is cancelled. As a
referendum goes with uncertainty, the party in power considers that it would be too risky. The
potential loss of leaving the EU would have disastrous effects on the country, whether they are
economic, politic, or even human. That is mainly the Labour position.
If the Conservatives keep the power in the coming elections, they might not be able to organise a
referendum if they do not manage to renegotiate the European terms on the British membership.
The reforms’ failure could therefore result in the cancellation of the referendum.
No reforms, no referendum: the UK status in the EU does not change while the people are not
consulted. Considering the trajectory the UK is currently following, with prevailing Euroscepticism
through Ukip pressure, the immigration issue crystallising tensions, and steady reluctance to the
European project, one might fear that the situation would worsen. The frustration implied by the
impossibility for Euroscepticism to express oneself could indeed be disastrous: since Cameron
announced this idea of referendum Eurosceptic expectations are high. While they see their chances
and hopes disappear, we could imagine a toughening of British Eurosceptics’ claims. Considering
the current state of the UK political landscape, Ukip and the Eurosceptic movement are indeed not
likely to reconsider their positions.

The (dis)United Kingdom – April 2015 – 29

Second Scenario: a referendum is held rejecting a Brexit even though reforms fail
In that case, we assume that the referendum will take place and the outcome is “staying in”. The
eventuality of a referendum without a reform would mean saying “yes” to the EU, without
modifying the UK membership’ terms. However, we must say that this scenario is quite unlikely to
happen, since the reforms are often considered as a condition to the referendum’s organisation.
Still, the consequences would be numerous: Firstly, the holding of a referendum would in a way
“clear the air”. If the public opinion decides to openly show its support to the EU, it would help
expel all kinds of ambiguities regarding UK membership. The UK could take this opportunity to
reaffirm its willingness to stay into the EU and establish a positive integration. To a certain extent,
this referendum would be the last chance for the UK to understand why it needs to stay into the EU.
As Pauline Schnapper explains, this would be a kind of explicit recognition from the public opinion
of the reciprocal importance of the EU for the UK82.
The impact on Euroscepticism could be equivocal. On the one hand, as stated earlier, the
referendum could help to limit the spread of Euroscepticism. On the other hand, the “yes” to EU
might not change the process of prospering Euroscepticism within UK society. In addition to that,
the dropping of the reforms’ project, which could be seen as a UK failure against Brussels, might
make Euroscepticism grow faster and settle deeper. We could even imagine that the Eurosceptic
parties would gain legitimacy.
Finally saying “yes” to Europe and failing implementing reforms, the UK would also avoid being
too marginalised within the EU, politically and economically speaking. The British economic and
financial sectors are indeed quite preoccupied about the eventuality of a Brexit. Jobs, trade, free
movement, foreign investments, structural funds, political and economic influence can be all the
reasons to stay in. Many think that the UK has actually the best of both worlds: it benefits from the
single market without being tied by the obligations implied by a single currency. On the other side,
the reality is not as dark as some tend to think: stay in has indeed its advantages, but on the other
side, a Brexit would not be as bad for the economy. The cost of the UK leaving the EU is real,
although it would be exaggerated to say the UK economy would be left to die.
Why would not there be any reform?
In both scenarios, with or without referendum, the reform project is at a moot point. Cameron and
the Conservatives, and the other UK parties to a certain extent, have set the standards too high.
Their reforms’ ambitions about the UK’s membership of the EU seem rather unrealistic.
Furthermore, the concept of “renegotiation” is subject to many different interpretations in the public
opinion: renegotiation of the terms of UK membership? Or bargain a “new settlement”, as Cameron
says, for the whole EU? In that sense, the renegotiation tackles not only the UK’s place in the EU,
but also the nature of the EU.
Besides, some UK proposals would imply either new EU legislation or EU treaties amendment. In
both cases, the agreement of all or at least some of the 28 EU members, according to the required
procedure, would take many years to get: each proposal has its own legal way of implementation.
Therefore, the reforms proposed by the Conservatives - especially the ones about immigration,
since they tackle the principles of free movement, and equal treatment of workers, that are
enshrined in the EU treaties - would not only be hardly achievable, but could also follow very
different paths. As Cameron says himself, “delivering it will take time and patience, as well as
82

Schnapper, Pauline. Personal Interview. 2015.

The (dis)United Kingdom – April 2015 – 30

strong relationships with our key allies and goodwill – not shouting from the sidelines”83. This
brings us to say that the UK would need the support of its traditional European allies. As a matter of
fact, the UK is becoming increasingly isolated in Brussels, although its actual influence on the
European agenda is bigger than it might seem. Moreover, as Ukip and Cameron’s party tend to
come closer, relationships with other European countries could be threatened. The gap with Ukip
claims has indeed reached a threshold. In addition to that, a few EU countries are eager to make the
rules of the game change, because of the economic situation and the fear of Eurosceptic feelings
spreading. Finally, “embarking on treaty change would be like opening Pandora’s box: almost
every government has demands that it wishes to see fulfilled in a new treaty”84. That would question
the “opt-out” clause that has been secured by the UK for its EU membership. Therefore, a
consensus on constructive reforms for the EU might be even harder to find.
Therefore, the UK government might not be able to hit the mark: because of excessive expectations,
without real allies in Brussels, tied hands with the “Ukip” shadow lying over UK politics, we could
assume that the UK is unlikely to propose and implement any constructive reforms at the European
scale.
B. The UK stays in the EU with a Reform
A common misconception is to assume that UK public opinion regarding the Brexit debate is overly
Eurosceptic. In fact, staying in the EU is a viable option considered, if not preferred, by many.
However, it should be noted that the political rhetoric regarding the option of staying in the EU has
continuously been coupled with the notion that it comes with reform in the key areas of concern for
the public; the message has been that the public grievances regarding the relationship with the EU
are well-founded and that change in this relationship is a condition to the UK staying in the EU. The
influence of public attitudes in setting the agenda as to this reform is not surprising given the fact
that the debate runs parallel to the election campaigns. The area that has grabbed the most headlines
and, subsequently, most attention among the public is that of immigration and, more specifically,
‘welfare tourism’. This verdict has proven quite a challenge for EU leaders, as the free movement of
people is a principle that lies at the core of the EU project, a driver of Euroscepticism, and an issue
that will be difficult to resolve85.

Areas of Reform and the UK Public Opinion
Surveys undertaken in preparation for the 2015 political campaigns indicate how prominent the
issue of immigration is to the UK public. The top two areas of perceived need for change in the EU
context, according to public opinion, are national sovereignty and the restriction of free movement
of people, two areas that are closely linked86. The debate around immigration, and in particular the
right to welfare benefits, outranks the desire for a referendum regarding EU membership to be held,
using funds to reduce the government deficit, building of new households, and social care for the
elderly in terms of government priorities for those surveyed87. However, one must not neglect the
element of reciprocity entangled in the migration debate: restrictions to movement across the UK
border could have negative repercussions in the form of restricting the movement of UK citizens
abroad. Thankfully, public opinion surveys in the UK have not omitted this factor – and rightly so –
83

Press Association, “David Cameron sets out agenda for EU reform”, The Guardian. 16 March 2014. Web.
Mortera-Martinez, Camino. "Cameron's Migration Speech and EU Law: Can He Change the Status Quo?" Centre for
European Reform. N.p., 04 Dec. 2014. Web. Mar. 2015.
85
Kiddy, John. Personal Interview. 2015.
86
Raines, Thomas. February 2015.
87
Kellner, Peter. "Migrant Benefit Ban Wins Poll." The Sunday Times. YouGov, 06 Jan. 2015. Web. Mar. 2015.
84

The (dis)United Kingdom – April 2015 – 31

as it says a lot about the trade-offs the public is willing to make, in turn reflecting the degree of
opposition to the free movement principle. For example, a public survey conducted in 2014
indicates that 57 per cent of those asked associate the following phrase with the EU: “Freedom to
study, work, and live anywhere in the EU”88. It is thus not surprising that when asked which aspect
of the EU the government should push to reform, only six per cent answered in favour of the free
movement of people across the continent. The following conclusion can be drawn from this: there is
a difference in opinion when the principle of the free movement of people is associated with UK
citizens taking advantage of it, and when it is associated with EU citizens migrating to the UK and,
in particular, when these migrants claim welfare benefits. In line with the latter take on the
migration debate, many consider it reasonable to demand reforms specific to the UK regarding this
aspect of EU membership; the UK’s small land-mass and the universality of the English language,
not to mention it being outside of Eurozone economic cycles, makes it particularly vulnerable to
immigration. John Kiddy voices the argument made by some that by being satisfied with the free
movement principle as it stands today the UK is falling victim to a ‘bogus argument’ regarding the
completion of the free market, masking the real motivation behind the free movement of people
principle which is to tempt aspiring members into the union89.
Ultimately, any talks regarding reform in this sector need to take into account EU legislation.
Brendan Simms sets out realistic, legal parameters regarding the above debate. Reforming the free
movement of people principle is not an option for continental Europe and, should they wish to do
so, the UK would have to have a different relationship with the EU all together, which would mean
losing their reciprocal rights of residency. However, where there is some room for reform, and
support from other EU members such as Germany, is the specifics regarding the social welfare
conditions for immigrants90.
The Scope of Reform: How Feasible is Legislative Reform?
Looking at the bigger picture, how large is the scope for legislative change regarding the defining
treaties of the EU? These questions do not frequently appear in public surveys or popular political
discourse making it fair to assume that when answering questions regarding reform, the UK public
is not answering the question of whether their answers are legally feasible. David Cameron is, of
course, aware of the possibilities for change, but arguably changes his tone when he is faced by
opposing politicians within the EU or the UK. This is understandable, as the suggestion to amend
the Lisbon Treaty has become an unpopular option amongst leading politicians within the EU.
There are, however, legal alternatives to amending the Lisbon Treaty: secondary legislation and
altering the implementation of EU directives in national law91. These options will prove to be a lot
more popular amongst European parliaments. Even though secondary legislation can be amended
without requiring treaty change, equal treatment must be upheld. Furthermore, regarding the issue
of migration, secondary legislation does not provide a legal loophole to bypass treaty change: any
change to the principle of free movement must be voted on by all EU member-states92. Merkel and
Tusk are important figures in Cameron’s quest to secure support in legislative reform, but it has
become clear that the extent of their support ends at treaty change. Even though Cameron may have
found support with Merkel regarding reform in terms of migrants’ right to welfare, further support
88

"Survey Opinion Former Results." (n.d.): n. pag. Chatham House. Chatham House and YouGov, Aug. 2014. Web.
Feb. 2015.
89
Kiddy, John. Personal Interview. February 2015.
90
Simms, Brendan. Personal Interview. 09 January 2015.
91
Watt, Nicholas. "Cameron’s Call for EU Reform on Agenda for Talks during Merkel’s Visit." The Guardian. N.p., 07
Jan. 2015. Web. Feb. 2015.
92
Mortera-Martinez, Camino. 04 December 2014.

The (dis)United Kingdom – April 2015 – 32

is unlikely. Tusk is reluctant to encourage EU treaty change, comparing it to opening of Pandora’s
box93. Amending the Lisbon Treaty to bring around the changes the UK public thinks it wants
would indeed open the floodgates for all kinds of demands for reform, which need to be taken into
account.
C. The UK Exits the EU
Brexit: Down to Party Politics
Despite the fact that polls show increased support for British membership to the EU, the UK’s
continued participation in the European project is by no means certain. YouGov polls in March
2014 showed a 42 per cent support rate for the UK to remain in the EU, up from 33 per cent in
January that same year. Ipsos Mori polls of the same year also showed a 43 per cent support for
British EU membership (either under the current terms or pursuing further integration)94. However,
the UK’s future in Europe is heavily dependent on the result of the next general election in May
2015. It has now been made clear what each of the two major parties’ position is on the question of
an ‘In-Out’ referendum. Cameron has promised a referendum on the continued membership of
Britain to the EU in 2017 based on the result of negotiations he foresees having if re-elected.
Miliband on the other hand has said that no referendum will be held unless there is a major transfer
of powers in question. As such, a Labour victory would put to rest the Brexit question, for now at
least95. Nonetheless, the result of the upcoming election is far from assured. It is likely that the UK
will have another hung parliament and depending on who forms the new government, the
Conservatives might or might not be able to carry out their promise of a referendum and thus a
possible British exit is still very much in the cards96.

Brexit: An Economic Question – The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly Scenarios
Even if the Conservative party is elected back to office after the May 2015 elections, the outcome of
the 2017 referendum will depend on a series of factors both endogenous and exogenous to the UK.
Two of the most important factors that will influence a possible British exit are the economic state
of the UK and of the EU at the time, if the UK economy is doing well that could strengthen the
feeling that the UK can do without the EU. That being said, a decision about Britain’s position in
the EU cannot be taken without taking the rest of the EU and the Eurozone into consideration. If the
Eurozone is looking economically fragile and people believe it will drag the UK down, then the
risks of being in the EU might outweigh the benefits in the public perception and an exit from the
EU could follow. In a ‘worst case scenario’ Britain could leave the EU with a lot of unpleasantness
in 2017 and a few years later the Eurozone could collapse and Europe would turn out to be what
Eurosceptics always wanted it to be: a disaster97.
However, the scenarios of a British exit from the EU do not all have to be disastrous. The
consequences of such an exit, should it happen, will heavily depend on how Britain leaves the EU.
The UK and the EU could part ways amicably. Both European and British leaders have realised that
the EU and especially the Eurozone need to move on with or without the UK. Mr Cameron and Mr
Osborne have recognised the need for further centralisation of initiative in the Eurozone and the
93

Nielsen, Nikolaj. "UK Demands for EU Treaty Change Are 'mission Impossible'" EU Observer. N.p., 16 Mar. 2015.
Web. Feb. 2015.
94
"European Union Membership - Trends." Ipsos MORI. N.p., 22 Oct. 2014. Web. 2015.
95
Marlière, Philippe. Personal Interview. 19 December 2014.
96
Hazell, Robert. Personal Interview. 05 January, 2015.
97
Simms, Brendan. Personal Interview. 09 January 2015.

The (dis)United Kingdom – April 2015 – 33

need to move towards an economic and banking union. Such measures would be to the benefit of
British interests as UK trade is dependent to a large extent on the EU and therefore British leaders
do not want a repeat of the financial crisis and the subsequent collapse in Eurozone growth98.
Nonetheless, if Europe cannot create an EU in which Britain can remain, given the apparent British
aversion towards further integration, Europe needs to move on without the UK. This need not cause
any unpleasantness on either side, as long as both parties recognise they are doing what is best for
their own survival and economic recovery99.
However, a British exist that is antagonistic and fraught, at a time when the future of the Eurozone
is still uncertain, could lead to mayhem within the EU and to other Member States considering an
exit, since a precedent will have been set. However, it is difficult to conceive an exit being possible
for any other EU state. The majority of member states are too small and weak to survive on their
own outside the EU. A British exit though would not only cause pandemonium at the supranational
level, it would also cause one at the national level. It would assuredly reopen the Scottish question,
as the Scots are markedly more pro-European than the English100. An ‘out’ vote from the EU for
Britain as a whole could trigger another referendum for Scotland as it would be a game changer for
the Scottish people who have not signed up to being ‘dragged out of the EU’, as the SNP leader
Nicola Sturgeon declared101.

Alternative Models
The situation for the UK, or even just England in the case where Scotland chooses to remain in the
EU despite an English (and possibly Welsh and Northern Irish) departure, would not be rosy. There
has been much talk of adopting a Norway model for cooperation with the EU without membership.
However, a position such a Norway’s is not a chosen or negotiated one. Norway has subscribed to a
lot of EU legislation but has had no say in its development, and has no parliamentary deliberation or
scrutiny over it102. Moreover, the idea that if the UK left the EU the powers exercised in Brussels
would be repatriated and perfect sovereignty would be restored to the UK is a misguided one. The
UK would still be bound by EU regulations when trading with the EU (its biggest trading partner),
but would have no say in their making. It should also be borne in mind that EU trading rules are the
basis for global trading rules and the UK would still be bound by those even if it left the EU. Again
the UK would have no voice, or at least would have a much quieter voice, in the making of
international trade agreements including those of the World Trade Organisation. In today’s heavily
interconnected and globalised world, even outside the EU, there can be no utopia of pure national
sovereignty over economic and social matters103.

98

Craig, Paul. Personal Interview. 20 January 2015.
Simms, Brendan. Personal Interview. 09 January 2015.
100
Simms, Brendan. Personal Interview. 09 January 2015.
101
Sturgeon, Nicola. Leader's Debate. ITV. 02 Apr. 2015. Television.
102
Kassim, Hussein. Personal Interview. 11 February 2015.
103
Craig, Paul. Personal Interview. 20 January 2015.
99

The (dis)United Kingdom – April 2015 – 34

Appendix
Figure 1: When you think about ‘immigrants’, which of these types of people do you normally
have in mind?104

Figure 2: What would you say is the most important issue/other important issues facing Britain
today?105

104
105

Duffy, Bobby, and Tom Frere-Smith. Perceptions and Reality. 5. 2014.
Duffy, Bobby, and Tom Frere-Smith. Perceptions and Reality. 15. 2014.

The (dis)United Kingdom – April 2015 – 35

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Acknowledgements
In collaboration with:
Jean-Louis Bourlanges; George Brock; Paul Craig; Hugo Dixon; François Duluc; Thomas Guénolé;
Robert Hazell; Julian Hutchings; Hussein Kassim; John Kiddy; Jacques Leruez; Enrico Letta;
Philippe Marlière; Frédéric Martel; Simon Meehan; Adrian Pabst; David Phinnemore; Pauline
Schnapper; Brendan Peter Simms; Andrew Vickers.

-­‐

Jean-Louis Bourlanges, Chief Counsellor at the Cour des Comptes (Court of Auditors),
former MEP in the ALDE group (1989-2007) and President of various commissions at the
European Parliament.

-­‐

George Brock, Professor of Journalism at City University London, former European Editor,
Managing Editor and International Editor at The Times, member of the executive board of
the International Press Institute (IPI) and Chair of the IPI’s British committee.

-­‐

Paul Craig, Professor of English and European Law at the University of Oxford and a
Fellow of St John's College, author of various books in the field of EU law.

-­‐

Hugo Dixon, Editor-at-Large at Reuters News, published columns on political economy in
the International New York Times and other international newspapers, author of “The
In/Out Question: Why Britain should stay in the EU and fight to make it better” and a
former journalist at The Financial Times.

-­‐

François Duluc, former student in the UK, former advisor for European affairs at the
French national assembly, former representative of the French Parliament at the EU
(Brussels), former policy advisor at the UN headquarters (New York), and currently an
advisor on international relations with Africa and Eastern Europe at the French National
Assembly.

-­‐

Thomas Guénolé, specialist of French politics, policy advisor, teacher and researcher at
Sciences Po Paris (CEVIPOF) and a political commentator in the French media.

-­‐

Robert Hazell, professor of British Politics and the Constitution and Director of the
Constitution Unit at University College London. Holds degrees in Politics Philosophy and
Economics (PPE) and Law from Oxford. Director of the Nuffield Foundation and founder of
the Constitution Unit at UCL. Awarded a CBE for services in constitutional reform.

-­‐

Julian Hutchings, Founder and President of the Franco-Scottish Alliance Association,
Commissioner to France for Clan Donald Europe and Founder of “Le Whisky et Vous”.

-­‐

Hussein Kassim, Professor of Politics in the School of Political, Social and International
Studies and Co-Investigator at the ESRC Centre for Competition Policy at the University of
East Anglia. Has held visiting positions at ARENA in the University of Oslo, Columbia
University, New York University, the Minda de Gunzburg Center for European Studies at
Harvard University and the Institut d'Etudes Politiques in Paris.

The (dis)United Kingdom – April 2015 – 39

-­‐

John Kiddy, Chief Executive Officer and Founder of Chase Cooper Ltd. and former Head
of the Investment Banking Division at City Consultants Ltd.

-­‐

Jacques Leruez, President of the Franco-Scottish Association, Emeritus Research Director
at the Centre National de le Recherche Scientifique (CNRS), Associate Researcher for the
Centre d’Etudes et de Recherches Internationales (CERI) at the Fondation Nationale des
Sciences Politiques.

-­‐

Enrico Letta, co-founder of think tank EuropaNova, former President of the Italian Council
of Ministers (2013-2014), former Deputy Secretary of State under the Prodi government,
former MEP in the ALDE group (2004-2006) and Dean of the Paris School of International
Affairs at l’Institut d’Études Politiques de Paris.

-­‐

Philippe Marlière, Professor in French and European Politics at University College
London. MA Degree in Law and an MPhil in Politics and Political Science at the University
of Lille. PhD in Social and Political Science (2000). Awarded the Marcel Liebman Chair in
political science by the Université Libre de Bruxelles in 2007.

-­‐

Frédéric Martel, Producer and host for the radio program “Soft Power” on French National
Public Radio (France Culture/Radio France), Senior Researcher at the Institut de Relations
Internationales et Stratégiques (IRIS) and previously an advisor to both former French Prime
Minister Michel Rocard and former Minister of Social Affairs and Employment Martine
Aubry.

-­‐

Simon Meehan, Director of Public Affairs Europe at Tata, former Policy and Government
Relations Manager at Google and former Policy Adviser to the European Parliament.

-­‐

Dr. Adrian Pabst, Senior Lecturer in Politics at the University of Kent and author of
numerous books and journal articles concerning both British and continental European
politics as well as the roles of ethics and religion in politics.

-­‐

David Phinnemore, Professor of European Politics at Queen’s University in Belfast, Jean
Monnet Chair in European Political Science and Visiting Professor at the College of Europe
in Bruges.

-­‐

Dr. Pauline Schnapper, former student in the Fontenay Saint-Cloud ENS, awarded a PhD
from Sciences Po Paris (IEP Paris) and currently a teacher of English and British
Civilization at Université Sorbonne Nouvelle - Paris 3.

-­‐

Brendan Peter Simms, an Irish historian and Professor of the History of International
Relations in the Department of Politics and International Studies at the University of
Cambridge. A fellow of Peterhouse, where he lectures for MPhil in International Relations
on the History of European Geopolitics and leads seminars on the same subject. Serves as
the President of The Henry Jackson Society and the Chairman of the Project for Democratic
Union.
 
Andrew Vickers, Vice President, NGO and Stakeholder Relations at Royal Dutch Shell,
and sits on the Board of Directors at the Public Affairs Council.    

-­‐

The (dis)United Kingdom – April 2015 – 40

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