You can’t blame Brussels for Brexit

EU flagRonan McCrea, Barrister and Senior Lecturer in Law at UCL, argues that it is not clear that the EU is any less accountable than national governments.

The claim that the EU is undemocratic and unaccountable is made so often it seems to be an accepted background to any discussion of the union. The charges levelled against it assert that EU institutions are unelected, unaccountable, and that EU democracy is a sham.

These critiques are only partially true and in many cases apply equally to the government of member states. Continue reading

Don’t blame young voters for not bothering about the EU referendum

bench-people-smartphone-sunProfessor Anand Menon, Professor of European Politics and Foreign Affairs at King’s College London and Director of the UK in a Changing Europe initiative, highlights the challenges of engaging young voters in the EU referendum campaign. Despite having the most at stake, young Britons tend to be not only uninformed about the EU in general, but also disinterested in the referendum debate.

Never before have so many had to decide on something they knew or cared so little about.

The “London bubble” is obsessing about the EU referendum on June 23. The parts of Twitter I see are hyperventilating with excitement over designation, debates, purdah, net costs and benefits, and the like. But the majority of the country could not give a fig.

This matters. It matters because the decision is an important one. And it matters because young people in particular, who have more at stake than anyone else, have the least interest in, and least knowledge about, the EU. Continue reading

Who speaks for Europe? The UK referendum as a pan-European affair

Sebastian Zwez/Wikimedia Commons.Andrew Glencross, lecturer in International Politics at the University of Stirling, argues that the Brexit debate greatly affects Europe yet commentary from EU figures and European heads of state has been surprisingly muted. Why is this so? This piece is part of the UCL European Institute’s first guest editor week on openDemocracy.

It is all too easy to treat the forthcoming UK referendum on EU membership as a purely British affair. Those quirky Brits! Late to the party and subsequently wracked by doubts over whether European integration is a good thing. Certainly, most of the public debate so far has revolved around British-centred questions: is the UK powerful enough to go it alone? Is it getting enough out of the current deal or can it negotiate a better arrangement? But while the referendum is itself a unilateral decision, the outcome will have EU-wide repercussions, especially in the event of a vote for ‘Brexit’. Voices speaking on behalf of Europe thus have a right to be heard, yet as with other EU referendums there is reason to ask who can articulate the European interest and whether such interventions are actually helpful. Continue reading

The EU deal – what does it mean for immigration and benefits?

suitcasesJonathan Portes, Principal Research Fellow at NIESR, and a Senior Fellow of UK in a Changing Europe, takes a closer look at David Cameron’s EU deal, and asks what impact it may have on immigration to the UK, free movement of EU citizens, and the contested issue of access to in work benefits in the UK.

The President of the European Council, Donald Tusk, wrote on 2 February to the members of the Council (EU Heads of Government) setting out his proposals for a “new settlement for the UK within the European Union”. What does the proposal mean for free movement of workers in the EU, immigration to the UK, and our in-work benefit system? My very quick (apologies in advance for any inaccuracies or oversimplifications) are as follows. Continue reading

David Cameron Needs a Vision for the Future of Europe

map-europe-carMatt Wood, Lecturer in Politics at the University of Sheffield, analyses David Cameron’s recent attempts at negotiating reform of the EU. As Cameron concentrates on the UK’s position within the EU, is he missing the opportunity to secure allies by ignoring how EU reform could benefit all member states in the future?

If David Cameron can’t convince the Polish Prime minister of the need for change in the EU, it’s fair to say he’s going to have trouble convincing many leaders at all of his renegotiation ‘package’. Beata Szydlo, Poland’s newly elected, arch-right wing premier, stated that she could not accept Cameron’s proposal to curb access to benefits for migrants within the EU, claiming that she did ‘not see eye to eye’ with the UK Prime Minister. One of the key reasons for the difficulties in renegotiation has been the lack of vision about a broader future for the EU, which has failed to bring on board otherwise agreeable partners. Here I’m going to suggest Britain’s renegotiations need to provoke a rethink of the whole landscape of the EU, beyond the ‘froth and nonsense’ of migrant in-work benefits, as one Tory Minister put it. Doing so may well be necessary for Cameron to secure the support he currently lacks for a renegotiation deal. Continue reading