The European elections today in Britain mark the break-up of the Conservative Partys’s civil union with the European mainstream right and moving in with the right-far right in the European Parliament. The European elections will be an indication of the UK’s future position in Europe.
David Cameron wants to put European integration in reverse gear, but keep the United Kingdom inside the EU. Blocking the Lisbon Treaty and repatriating powers, using Britain’s veto on the EU’s next long term budget, are telling signs of a trajectory towards the fringes.
Social Europe Journal
In the Social Europe Journal, Henning Meyer takes a more principled stand. He sees that the ambiguity of the UK’s attitude towards European integration can only be resolved by a referendum on the membership question: “The Union is far from perfect but becoming better and it is the best hope for Europe to play a leading role in the politics of the 21st century. Britain should decide whether to stay in warts-and-all or leave.”
Britain’s Future in the European Union – Stay in warts-and-all of Leave (3 June 2009) is worth reading before the ballots are cast.
Richard Laming on the Federal Union blog has posted: Conservative policy on Europe becomes clearer (3 June 2009).
Laming does not see that a new intergovernmental conference under a veto threat concerning the long term budget would succeed or make Britain more influential.
Holding Europe hostage
If the latest UK governments have been fairly unconstructive, the probable future government party has chosen a style even more abrasive and confrontational. This calls for an assessment of their threats.
The advantages of the European Union, including the internal market, are naturally much wider than the “membership fees”, but anti-Europeans are usually obsessed by them.
In addition, it makes sense to evaluate the stranglehold the British contribution has on the European Union financially.
Nosemonkey’s EUtopia referred to the HM Treasury Report: European Community Finances Statement on the 2008 EC Budget and measures to counter fraud and financial mismanagement (Cm 7462, September 2008), which showed the following net contributions of the United Kingdom (£ billion):
(2008) 3.6 (estimated)
The UK net contribution is roughly £4 billion annually, which translates into something like €4.6 billion.
Switzerland and the non-EU members of the European Economic Area (EEA), Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway, with access to the internal market, contribute to the EU budget.
Voters in the European elections in Britain send a signal on their country’s future relations with Europe. A vote for one of the parties in or near the European mainstream – the Liberal Democrats, the Greens or Labour – is a voice for some sort of constructive engagement.