On 29 January, members of the King’s Think Tank European Affairs and Energy and Environment policy centres, and one of the Head Editors visited the European Union institutions in Brussels. Mere hours away from the final vote on the UK’s Withdrawal Agreement from the EU, the visit was one of anticipation, uncertainty, and excitement. Upon arrival in Brussels, we split into two groups: the Energy and Environment policy centre visited the European Parliament, and the European Affairs policy centre first visited the European Economic and Social Committee (EESC) and then the Parliament, before reconvening in the afternoon at the European Commission and experiencing the unexpected opportunity to witness the aforementioned vote. Below, the two groups detail their visits.
Britain has left the European Union. The historic referendum has left the sitting government in hot water. Now, David Cameron has pledged to resign, the pound has dropped drastically, and the UK’s legislators are left with the daunting task of redefining themselves, as well as renegotiating with the rest of the world. For some, the day marks a reclamation of British democracy, whereby the people of the country now are free from the bureaucratic shackles of Brussels. For others, it marks a historical step back, sending Britain into isolation again with the prospects of recession on the horizon.
“What lies ahead is a monolithic task for British lawmakers to build an independent future for Britain, and forge a path to the future in law and trade.”
Indeed, Britain’s political scene will see great changes in the next few months. The Prime Minister lost his great gamble on the EU, announcing his departure from office by October. Meanwhile the likes of Nigel Farage and Boris Johnson are declaring independence day. Likely, they will play a large part in the new face of the government. The result has also prompted Alex Salmond to call for a second independence referendum for Scotland, stating that it is the result of “Scotland being taken out of the EU against our will”.
This is a result that has been brewing for years, as anti-Brussels rhetoric has been on the rise from both sides of the aisle in British politics. For years, the political scene in the UK has been fiercely anti-Brussels. Now, with growing austerity and pressure on immigration what was once rhetoric has turned into a reality. ‘Remain’ campaigners were sure to make clear the risks of Brexit, and warned of an immediate recession. This morning, the FTSE 100 index opened with an 8% plunge, along with the sterling. What lies ahead is a monolithic task for British lawmakers to build an independent future for Britain, and forge a path to the future in law and trade. It must, again, define itself as a nation.
Will Brexit be the end of the EU in general? Of course, this question has its roots not only in the rhetorical quips of the British government, but in the very structure of the EU itself. In the years to come, they will be facing referendum after referendum if they do not enact sweeping organisational reforms. Anti-EU rhetoric is high across many of the European countries and a fear is that this result will embolden nationalist movements across Europe, sparking more divide. Donald Tusk, President of the European Council has said that the European countries must meet to discuss the future of the EU and how they are to respond to the UK’s decision to leave. Facing disunity at historic levels both economically and politically, one thing remains clear: They must reform.
Britain’s history with the EU goes back to the Second World War. The European Coal and Steel Community banded together in the wake of WWII to align Europe economically to prevent the same kind of violent bloodshed. From then on it has created the common, and then single market, faced energy crises, dictators (General Franco, for example) and the environment. It has grown closer politically and in mutual defence, eventually establishing its own basis with the Lisbon Treaty.
“The EU must, too, redefine itself or face further disbandment.”
Britain joined the European Economic Community under the leadership of Conservative Prime Minister Edward Heath in 1973, supported by more than 67% of Britons in the 1975 referendum. The relationship was at times strained, with Thatcher pushing against a political union, and humiliation at “Black Wednesday”. But it also seemed to be growing ever closer, by way of Blair bringing the UK nearer to the Euro as well as enacting EU social protections. With all of its exemptions and powers in the institution, Britain will be invoking the Lisbon Treaty and packing its bags.
A project once known as ambitious and democratic has been widely labelled overbearing and bureaucratic. The future of the UK is at stake with economic and political pressures from within. The EU must, too, redefine itself or face further disbandment. We undeniably sit in times of ambiguity with regard to the future of both the UK and the EU. However, one thing is certain: There is a lot of work to be done.
European Affairs Policy Centre President
King’s Think Tank
Most Britons are aware, if only from last year’s celebrations, that Bills of Rights, like the industrial revolution, started here. Magna Carta is not the only one; we had another Bill of Rights, called just that, in 1689. That pair, along with their offshoots like Habeas Corpus and jury trial, have encapsulated a heritage of freedom which has spread from this country to many parts of the globe. Continue reading “Argue with an Academic: Anthony Speaight QC on a British Bill of Rights”
On the morning of 12th December, President of COP21 and French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius delivered a passionate speech preceding the release of the final draft of the Paris Agreement. He spoke of the need to recognise how “collective efforts are more than the sum of our individual actions”, that if nations failed to agree, “our children would neither understand nor forgive us”, and that the negotiations had produced an “ambitious and balanced” agreement that recognised the notion of climate justice. Continue reading “Ambitious Realism at the Paris Climate Talks”
On 11 November 2015, Prime Minister David Cameron delivered a speech on ‘The Future of Britain’s Relationship with the European Union’. Delivered at Chatham House, he outlined the four reforms the United Kingdom sought from the European Union: economic governance, competitiveness, sovereignty, and immigration. Continue reading “Brexit: The British Inability To Comprehend Bro-operation”
The issue of prisoner voting rights is an issue that has been subject to vigorous political and legal debate in the UK over the past decade. For many on the right of the political spectrum this issue has become the target for frustration over the influence of European institutions on UK law and raises the fundamental issue of sovereignty. For those on the left it is symbolic of a battle against the erosion of human rights and signifies the pursuit of a more rehabilitative theory of justice. Continue reading “Prisoner Voting Rights”
Uniting citizens across Europe, bashing TTIP has been a welcome unifier for a continent in chaos. TTIP, the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, is a trade treaty the European Union is currently negotiating with the US. Whatever our internal differences may be, Europe is united in its dislike of extreme American capitalism. Conservative, liberal or socialist, in the US we would all be shades of Democrat. Right? Well, maybe yes, but US capitalism and its horrors are only a part of the problems inherent in TTIP. We Europeans are to blame for its real problems. Continue reading “TTIP – A corruption of Europe’s own making”
On Friday 16th October, the King’s Think Tank launched its first event of the year, a panel discussion focusing on ‘Europe’s Migrant Crisis’. The panel included Dr Jeff Crisp, a Research Associate at the University of Oxford’s Refugee Studies Centre; Jean Lambert, Green MEP for London; Mr James Mates, Europe Editor of ITV News and Jakob Muratov, President of the European Affairs Policy Centre at the Think Tank. The vibrant discussion covered the impact of mass migration with regards to the migrants themselves, border control and the necessary response to overcome the problems facing Europe.
The displacement of millions mainly due to the ongoing Syrian civil war and the rise of ISIS have left Europe facing the largest refugee crisis since the Second World War. A united European response is essential if the values and, indeed, the existence of the European project are to be sustained. This author believes that the current issue of refugees should be detangled from the wider immigration debate and that a coherent response must be found to give asylum to those fleeing persecution.
A few months ago this author wrote that enforced austerity in Greece was undermining democracy. That, even if loans were repaid and debts exacted, the political cost of pushing people towards anti-European and anti-democratic radicals, would be so much greater in the long run for the future of Europe that no monetary sum was worth the risk. Instead, it argued, Europe should give Greece the economic space it needs to grow. In the heat of this latest crisis, it is necessary to examine first whether this prophecy has come true, that of greater radicalisation, and also whether the prescribed medicine is still the correct one. Continue reading “A European Dilemma. Austerity or Democracy for Greece?”