Lies, Damn Lies and Leave.EU Leaflets

brexit muffinsAs the Brexit campaign heats up, many of us are receiving leaflets urging us to vote either “in” or “out”. Whilst it is to be expected that each camp will attempt to frame the argument in a way that favours its cause, the Leave.EU leaflet makes claims that are clearly misleading. UCL academics Randoph Bruno, Filipa Fiquiera and Jan Kubik set the record straight.

Leave.EU Leaflet: “In 1975 we voted for a Free Trade Area known then as the Common Market”

The first sentence and already we have been misled. The European Economic Community (also known as the Common Market) which the UK joined back in 1973, was not a simple Free Trade Area and this was made clear to voters at the time of the 1975 referendum. The official UK government pamphlet, which was sent to all British homes prior to to the referendum, stated prominently the following:

The aims of the Common Market are: to bring together the peoples of Europe; to raise living standards and improve working conditions; to promote growth and boost world trade; to help the poorest regions of Europe and the rest of the world; to help maintain peace and freedom.

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Not seen, not heard: the implications of Brexit for children

brexit sandcastlesExiting the European Union has the potential to severely, negatively impact children living in Britain today, yet so far Brexit has remained a discussion between and about adults, writes Helen Stalford, Professor of Law at the University of Liverpool. This piece is part of the UCL European Institute’s commissioning partnership ‘Brexit Divisions’ with openDemocracy.

On 23 June 2016 adults will decide on the future of the UK’s membership of the European Union. While proposals to extend the vote to 16 and 17 year olds were defeated in the House of Lords in December 2015, they reignited debate over the substance and scope of children’s democratic participation and their capacity to make informed political decisions. None of these discussions or, indeed, any of the wider debates surrounding the forthcoming referendum have considered the impact that the UK’s withdrawal from the EU might have on children’s rights and lives. This is in spite of the fact that children, who make up one fifth of the EU population and nearly one quarter (approximately 15 million) of the UK population, have the biggest stake in the outcome of the referendum. As current and future citizens, consumers, movers, workers, parents, and carers, children will bear the full brunt and, indeed, the benefits of any decision to either remain in or withdraw from the EU. Continue reading

Facts of Life: How Michael Gove misrepresents the effects of EU law and the ECJ case law

justice statueIn his response to the Treasury’s report on Brexit, Michael Gove argued that EU Law and the European Court of Justice are responsible for imposing undesirable laws on the British public. In this post, Piet Eeckhout, Professor of EU Law at UCL, examines to what extent Gove’s claims stand up to close scrutiny.

The Brexit debate is starting to crystallise. The Treasury’s report on the negative impact of the alternatives to full membership presents the Leave campaign with considerable difficulties. The one EU policy that has always met with broad-based approval in UK political circles is the single market. At least membership gave that purely economic benefit – “if only the EU could be confined to constructing this free internal market” has been a persistent rallying cry. For the Leave campaign now to argue that it does not matter too much whether the UK is inside the EU internal market is rather incongruous, and aims to puncture the political consensus. Not an easy thing to do.

It is therefore not surprising that Michael Gove, in his headline speech in response to the Treasury report on how “the facts of life say leave”, struggles to take issue with the report’s findings. Instead, the focus is on democratic self-government, even “independence” (as if the EU were a colonial master), and on removing the yoke of EU law and of the ECJ case law. The broad argument is that the limited negative economic effects of Brexit – if there are any – are outweighed by the return of full democratic self-government. Continue reading

Losing citizenship and democratic authority in Europe

European Parliament/Flickr. (CC 2.0 by-nc-nd)Damian Chalmers, Professor of EU Law at LSE and Fellow of UK in a Changing Europe, argues that the EU will continue to be perceived as authoritarian until it reforms its relationship with national citizenship and political community. This piece is part of the UCL European Institute’s commissioning partnership with openDemocracy.

When the EU’s heads of state and government met in Laeken in 2001 to start the process that culminated in the Lisbon treaty, it was not meant to be like this. A new settlement was to be built that would not only be the byword for constitutional democracy beyond the state but that would also provide the framework within which a post-national community could live at ease with itself. Individuals were to be as comfortable being and living alongside EU citizens as they were alongside national citizens.

Fast forward nearly 15 years and migration has become a touchstone for the dissolution of that dream. The rawness of its politics has consumed the EU’s decision-making structures and seemingly overwhelmed its authority. More pervasively, migration is associated with a climate of popular mistrust of political institutions, both national and EU, in which the latter are perceived by a part of the citizenry as unresponsive and unable to deal with claim and counterclaim. The commitments of national citizens to foreigners, be these other EU citizens or non-EU nationals, has been called increasingly into question and into competition with commitments to fellow nationals. Continue reading

Power to the parliaments! But will Cameron’s EU partners join his crusade?

Collier's_1921_Vol_7_Frontispiece_--_Parliament_Buildings,_LondonDavid Cameron wants national parliaments to have more say in the EU, but other European capitals have little appetite for radical change. Agata Gostyńska-Jakubowska, Research Fellow at the Centre for European Reform, argues that he should instead focus on improving existing mechanisms for parliaments to influence draft EU legislation.

The British Prime Minister, David Cameron, has been touring European capitals to present his package for reforming the EU. Among other things, he wants a stronger role for national parliaments in the EU, but he has yet to make detailed proposals. Philip Hammond, the foreign secretary, calls this the “scoping stage” during which Cameron is testing Europe’s appetite for reforms. Continue reading