Euroscepticism in Britain Politics
Euroscepticism. Define Euroscepticism and discuss its significance in British politics and the British party system.
The contemporary era of Globalization is characterized by the growing interaction between different nation states. The relationships among various neo-liberal states are based on the attitude of co-operation and mutual benefit. This idea gets successful transformed into an institutional framework through the formation of European Union (EU). It is an organization based on the concept of a ‘common market' for all European countries. The EU is a unique experiment to form a single intergraded organization that would include within its framework-varied nation-states. Its membership has been based on shared values and commitment towards the idea of the liberal democratic state system.
However, there is a growing dissonance among different Europe nations about the consequence that the growing interactional between the various European nations might produce and its effect on their national interest. There is an increasing belief that the continued existence of this form of governmental organization might create a gradual dissolution of national sovereignty. The anxiety about various political, social and economic reforms like EU's migration policy, its Euro crisis, etc. and its influence on the functioning of the sovereign government (Umbach 2002, p.1). Hence, in the era of Brexit with the organization facing the threat of its disintegration, there is a need to create a balanced federal political organization that provides equal representation to its every nation while retaining the unified, cohesive existence of the group.
The European Union:
The European Union is a unified trade and monetary body based on the idea of a ‘common market.' Its objective is to emerge as significant European trade block in the competitive global market. With the UK opting out of the union its current membership includes 27 other European nations like Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain and Sweden (Amadeo, 2017).
The EU's understanding of a single market was based on the free transfer and exchange of goods and services across the different nation states. Apart from increasing trade, this organizational association has also proved beneficial to its member countries in various areas like achieving sustainable development, environmental protection, research, development of an alternative form of energy, etc. The union also provides for severe reduction and complete removal of various trade and tariff barriers between different nation-states. The organization also provides for the implementation of uniform economic reforms thus producing a standardized form of taxation within the Union. Its objective and aims, however, is not restricted at the achievement of just economic integration and improving trade and strategic relations between its member nations but its concerns also extend to various socio-cultural issues. It had collective helped framed the policy for the integration of migrant community as well as introduced many other political reforms to provide aid to different nations.
Europe in the Post-Second World War era was suffering from extreme desolation. Though emerged victorious, its participation in the war had a severe effect on the economy of these European nations. Thus, to encourage reconstruction of their economy and military capabilities, there emerged a need among them to come together and form cooperative associations that world ensures development in trade and security.
The origin of European Union can be traced to the European Coal and Steel Community founded in 1950. It constituted of six nation-states that included Belgium, France, Germany, Italy, Luxembourg, and the Netherlands. It further evolved into the European Economic Community (EEC) in 1957 under the Treaty of Rome. The EEC enjoyed an increase in membership that included nations like Denmark, Ireland, Greece, Spain and the United Kingdom. This also produced a corresponding rise in the organization's power compared to its predecessor. In its infancy, the Community focused on framing a common agricultural policy for its member nations. Followed by the formation of various economic reforms that aimed at reduction and further elimination of various trade barriers.
Through the Single European Act enacted in 1986, the EEC was successful in establishing the framework for cooperation among its member nations and also managed to increase its influence. The European Economic Community was also successful in the creation of a single European market economy. The Maastricht Treaty that came into force in the year 1993 created the European Community (EC), which then emerged to replace the EEC. The organization of EC so emerged had wider objectives than that of European Community.
The organization of European Community thus formed was later into the European Union created under the Treaty Lisbon, 2009. The union's focus isn't restricted to the attainment of only economic integration between its different nation states is extended to the creation of various political, socio-cultural reforms. The European Union also provides for the usage of a single currency called ‘euro' by all its member nations. In 2012, the union was awarded a Nobel Peace Prize, 'for over six decades contributed to the advancement of peace and reconciliation, democracy and human rights in Europe.' The EU has also evolved into a significant trade organization; its GDP in the year 2014 amounted to as much as $13.8 billion.
The European Union has emerged as the ambitious project undertaken to create an integrated state system based on mutual benefit and co-operation. The significant development achieved by the Union heralds the establishment of an alternative more integrated form of a state system. However, some European nations appeared threatened by the increasing influence exercised by the European Union. Its member nations are especially scared about the threat that the union poses towards the exercise of their External Sovereignty. Thus, there has emerged an active discourse against the European Union, the recent Euro crisis, migration policies, etc. and the declining economic development of few of its member nations has further intensified this doctrine. The phenomenon of Brexit demonstrates the growing dissatisfaction with this alternative social order.
The political doctrine of Euroscepticism that has emerged in the 1980's refers to the mistrust exhibited by the British towards the ambitious project that aimed at achieving European integration. The term then expanded to include everyone who is against the idea of integration. Thus, the political doctrine of Euroscepticism is a political doctrine that supports the disengagement of the European Union (EU). The political parties that espouse a more populist Eurosceptic point of view have increasingly advocated this view.
This populist political advocacy is substituted by the support for stringent measures for immigration controls in addition to asserting the need for a disassembling of the EU bureaucratic structure and its reduced influence (Ray, 2016). The doctrine is also in opposition to the formulation of euro, as a single currency of the integrated financial system of EU, the increasing influence exerted by the union's institutions, its bureaucracy, its various expansionists policy, and to some existing memberships.
Thus, the term ‘Eurosceptic’ has evolved to include an extensive range of populist’s viewpoint. For achieving a better understanding, I would like to divide and further classify the different Eurosceptic and further place them along a continuum as either ‘moderate’ or ‘extreme’. Here, while the moderates support the institution of European Union, they would prefer to make some significant changes in the organization's structure and opinion in support of the latter position, however, believes the Union to be a malicious entity that needs to be destroyed.
However, the divisions between the two groups aren't watertight. In fact, there exist significant ambiguities between these two groups. The doctrine lacks any organizational or ideological framework. Several also ambiguities exist when the term is further referred to within the populist's politics by the individual belonging to the diverse political position. Left-wing Eurosceptic groups understand it as a product of capitalist, while those positioned on the Right oppose the growing influence that the EU exerted on the nation consequently threatening its sovereignty and culture. The political leaders in some member states have also appeared to be demonizing the EU in support of the populist's views (Boffey, 2017).
There are many reasons that have motivated the rise of Eurosceptic in the popular discourse. Here, I would like to focus on some of the arguments against the European Union. The most important one is that the decision making power in the organization is restricted with the institution which is not elected through any democratic institutions and hence isn’t responsible to the citizens of its member nation states. There are also exists varied groups and divisions within the organization that play an influential in framing its different policies and programs.
The most important phenomenon that has significantly affected the coherence within the organization is the Euro crisis. Lack of monitoring apparatus that regulated the financial interactions between different member states of the European Union is lacking. The citizens of many nations aren’t willing to take responsibility for the insolvency suffered by other member nations like Greece, Spain etc. The issue of migration as also gained a huge populists position with the economically advanced nations reluctant increase the strain on the resources available within the country and compromise the standard of living available to its own citizens. These and various other policies have argued against the dominant doctrine that frames EU.
Eurosceptic in Britain politics:
As argued earlier, the understanding of Euroscepticism has emerged for the first time in the United Kingdom (UK). Over the period there hasn't been a dramatic change the nation's perceptions of the EU. Even in the year 2004, the citizens of the country expressed a relatively low level of trust in the Union (Torreblanca, 2013). This populist opinion then gets further opined through political arguments and discourses formulated by different political parties of the country. The nation has also continued to exhibit great reluctance in accepting in the common currency accepted by all European Union member nation states.
This popular doctrine has resulted in the emergence of and has further supported the United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP) in the UK. Founded in 1993, the party espoused the libertarian philosophy with its party policy based on the populist doctrine of Euroscepticism. The party since its emergence has however managed to achieve moderate success in the electoral politics.
Its advocacy of the anti-migration, however, has managed to produce a significant achievement for the party by winning 13 seats in the national electoral politics. The party’s position has further improved through its performance the UK local electoral politics conducted in 2012 and these achievements were again repeated in the 2013 elections. Its improved position in the UK politics has continued and has been reflected in the recent 2016 elections. The electoral success achieved by UKIP thus reflect the increasing influence of the populist doctrine of Euroscepticism and this gets reflected in the country’s recent decision to exit from the European Union.
The most significant product of the doctrine of Eurosceptic popularly advocated by the UK is 'Brexit.' It refers to the decision taken by the United Kingdom exit the European Union this year. The decision is a product of popular mandate; it was taken through the process of a referendum where the majority of the people in the nation voted in favor of exiting from the Union. Here, I would like to analyze the phenomenon of Brexit by understanding its consequences. It also depends upon how the country manages to entangle itself from the association it has been a part of from a significantly long period of time. It is argued that the whole process could extend to another two years.
Through this, however, the country has encouraged the rise of Eurosceptic in Europe. If UK’s example may prove successful it might encourage other nations to separate from the European Union (Szczerbiak, 2017). However, this might not occur since other European nations seem to have adapted themselves to the Union and are satisfies with its functioning. The consequence of the UK exiting EU might be hard to predict and while its short terms benefits are quite significant, its long-term profits may not. The nation of the UK, its trade and various other security associations are characterized by the country’s dependency on Europe. Given this understanding rather than exiting the organization the nation must have made some effort to bring certain changes in its functioning.
Books: Umbach, M. ed., 2002. German Federalism: Past, present and future. Springer.
Article: Torreblanca, J.I. and Leonard, M., 2013. The continent-wide rise of Euroscepticism. European Council on Foreign Relations (ECFR).
Websites: Amadeo. K., 2017. What Is the European Union? How It Works and Its History. https://www.thebalance.com/what-is-the-european-union-how-it-works-and-history-3306356
Ray. M., 2017. Euroskepticism. https://www.britannica.com/topic/Euroskepticism#Article-History
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