Christopher Bickerton, lecturer in Politics at the University of Cambridge, discusses how how the impending EU referendum in the UK necessitates open and unbiased academic debate, and how British discussions of EU reform may reverberate across the European continent.
When the results of the British election were known, those studying the EU may have allowed themselves a quiet and discrete fist pump. David Cameron and the Conservative Party have made such firm assurances about organizing a referendum on EU membership that to renege on this promise is almost unimaginable. A referendum will take place, putting the EU at the heart of British political debate at least for the next couple of years and providing plenty of opportunities for the entrepreneurial EU studies researcher.
More generally though, responses to the forthcoming referendum have revealed some of the biases that exist amongst those studying the EU. Unsurprisingly, as with many other fields of inquiry, those who study the EU tend often to think it is a rather good thing. A referendum on British membership has therefore been perceived as an unwelcome event, more a threat than an opportunity. Attitudes range from the fearful to the reluctant.