(Blog) What next for the European Union and United Kingdom?

I'm old enough to have voted in the first ever UK-wide referendum in 1975. I was one of the 67% who responded positively to the question “Do you think the UK should stay in the European Community (Common Market)?” Times have changed and that very healthy 2/3 majority is unlikely to be repeated!


I haven't changed my mind and I will vote in the same direction if the UK persists in the plan to hold another referendum on the subject in 2017. The question then will no doubt be differently phrased but the intent will be clear, does the UK stay in the EU or head for the exit door installed by the Lisbon Treaty?

Current polls suggest 48% in favour of leaving against 37% who want to stay in. The decision would go the other way if David Cameron could present a “favourable” re-negotiation package, with 42% opting to stay in against 36% who would still want to quit. Either way, that leaves a potentially critical margin of “don't knows”.

By the way, if the Scots vote for independence in September this year, the United Kingdom may technically no longer exist in 2017 and the figures could be heavily changed- the Scottish people are generally more pro-EU than their southern neighbours but presumably would not get to express their opinion.

Whether such a referendum will be held depends in part on whether David Cameron’s Conservatives win the next general election outright in May 2015. If they do, then he is committed to trying to renegotiate the UK's terms of membership followed by an in/out public vote. He won't say exactly what demands he will make, but the British government has commissioned a full scale audit of EU policy areas. The findings so far don't give him much comfort because they suggest that the current balance of competences between the EU and the member states is "broadly appropriate". He will have to come clean with the British voters before next May's general election, and no doubt the Conservative manifesto drafting team is already hard at work to find a formula that he can sell in public.

The official line from both the Labour and Liberal Democrat parties is that they will only support a referendum if there is a further transfer of sovereignty to the EU institutions proposed through new Treaty changes. This in essence is what the UK's European Union Act 2011 says should happen. However, during the 2015 election campaign these parties will come under heavy pressure from the right wing media and eurosceptics (and many within their own parties) to pledge to follow the same track as the Conservatives and unconditionally agree to hold an in/out referendum if they are part of any incoming government.

The scenario that could then unfold is that whichever of the bigger parties (Conservative, Labour, Lib Dem) forms the next UK government, they could fail to negotiate what they consider to be a favourable package of reforms (i.e. one that they could present as a success story) and therefore be forced to head for the Brexit. Ukip would have won without ever having being in power

The Green Party of England and Wales (GPEW) has a triple “yes” policy, agreeing to demands for a reform of the EU, agreeing to a referendum and then agreeing to campaign to stay in. However, the reforms the GPEW want to see are significantly different to those likely to be demanded by David Cameron, who wants access to the single market and little else.

British Greens want a social Europe, a clean and healthy Europe, a renewable Europe, a democratic and responsive Europe, a fair and compassionate Europe. They want to be part of it and so do I.

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