Debate: Should Britain Stay in the EU?

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Disclaimer: Please note that unfortunately on this occasion we did not receive a counter-argument despite numerous requests.

Yes. Article by Fran Hilton. Edited by George Richards.

Britain’s membership of the EU has always been prone to much tension and critique and this looks set only to continue with Cameron’s recent veto over EU treaty changes. As an issue that has always been predicted to be the main dividing factor over the coalition, we are left with two leaders on opposing stances: a Prime Minister who seeks a less direct relationship in the EU, and a deputy who wishes to see Britain take a more encompassing role in EU affairs. The question is: which role is best for Britain? One of isolation, or one of participation? This article will argue why an isolated Britain could have severe implications for not only the economy, but the welfare of its citizens as well.

Eurosceptics would argue that the EU as an institution has too great a sovereignty over British affairs. Here they cite the Factortame case as an example, where the European court of justice asserted the primacy of European Community law over domestic affairs (as seen by the EU common fisheries policy over British waters). However, such an argument about sovereignty tends to ignore such examples as the Human Rights Act of 1998 which has done much for British welfare. This is evident in the complete abolition of the death penalty (when it was still legal in regards to some cases of military offences). Another prime example is from 2008 when the Court of Appeal upheld the human rights of children in secure training centres. This was introduced against the restraint rule introduced by ministers the summer before which resulted in the death of a child by restraint. Such Acts may never have been passed without our involvement in the EU. The eurosceptics among the Conservative Party in fact opposed European measures that “led to the arrest and extradition of one of the July 21 bombers, and the break-up of an international paedophile ring.” [1] Here, it is clear, that our involvement in the EU is instrumental in securing the welfare of British citizens.

From an economic perspective, such events as the Eurozone crisis have not instilled the greatest trust or confidence in the advantages of Britain’s involvement within the European Union. It is evident that significant reforms are needed, but this is not to argue that our involvement within the Union is against our benefit. In recent years, eurosceptics have portrayed an image of a strong Britain being weakened within the Union by having to bail out countries of economic crises. Such an image is not only naïve, but ignores completely the economic benefits we gain from our involvement. For instance, the European Union as an institution represents the “world’s largest borderless single market” [2], with the majority of Britain’s trade taking place here. (Eurosceptics may suggest that the Rotterdam effect results in inflated figures of our trade within the EU, but such an effect has the same implications for any of our trading partners). Critics have also suggested the U.S. to be as equally important in terms of trade, but it falls shortly behind that of our EU partners. In such a period of economic austerity, we are surely stronger together than isolated. The economic implications of our isolation could have a massive impact locally on manufacturing cities such as Sheffield, considering investors have invested massively in Britain in terms of manufacturing because of our access to the single market. Isolation could result in economic suicide with the loss of such investors’ support.

As an institution, the EU cannot be regarded as perfect, but it has brought much prosperity to Britain, not purely in economic terms, but in regards to the welfare of British citizens as well. We are stronger together rather than apart, and our isolation could only bring about negative repercussions for Britain as a country. For as one German tabloid claimed: “Bye bye England. Europe goes on without you”. [3]

[1] http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/election-2010/7603945/Nick-Clegg-defends-Liberal-Democrat-stance-on-Europe.html

[2] http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/david-cameron-euro-trade-links-are-a-key-interest-2377095.html

[3] http://www.spiegel.de/international/europe/0,1518,803278,00.html