Is the Commonwealth a Real Alternative to UK Membership of the European Union?

Commonwealth UK flagAdvocates of a UK exit from the European Union sometimes propose the Commonwealth as a natural alternative, often on the grounds that its members share historical and cultural ties with the UK. Maria Mut Bosque, Lecturer in International Law and EU Law at the Universitat Internacional de Catalunya, revisits the UK’s relationship to the Commonwealth, how it was affected by EU membership, and what roles it might play in the Brexit debate.

If there is a British political group that is united in its desire for a UK exit of the EU, and instead advocates a return to the UK’s Commonwealth roots, it is UKIP. UKIP’s 2015 manifesto clearly stated:

“The British exit will be a huge relief for many other EU members, who have known all along that the vast majority of the British people find the idea of political union with the rest of Europe abhorrent.

Our leaving will set them free to have full political union […] and set us free to make the most of all our links with the Commonwealth, with North America, Australasia, much of Africa, the Indian subcontinent and all the other countries where English is the first or second language, as well as, of course, with Europe and the EU itself”.

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Five minutes with Catherine de Vries: “The left is now split over whether they simply oppose the EU’s policies or oppose what the EU stands for overall”

How has opposition to the European Union changed in light of the Greek debt crisis, the UK’s planned referendum on EU membership, and the migration crisis in the Mediterranean? In an interview with LSE EUROPP’s editor Stuart Brown, Catherine de Vries discusses the impact the UK’s referendum might have on the continent, the nature of left-wing Euroscepticism, and why immigration remains the most important issue for David Cameron in his efforts to reach a deal on EU reform.

How might the UK’s referendum campaign affect Eurosceptic movements in other parts of Europe? Could there be a domino effect with other Eurosceptic parties motivated to demand their own referendum on EU membership?

I think this is certainly possible, but it depends on the outcome of the UK’s referendum. I doubt there will be any such referendum prior to the one held in the UK. There were initiatives in the Austrian and Dutch parliaments, but they were voted down. So it really depends: if the UK voted to leave it might well reinvigorate the Eurosceptic right, in particular in countries like the Netherlands and France, but if the referendum is a vote to stay in then it’s unlikely to prompt similar moves elsewhere. Continue reading

How much closer are we to Brexit?

If the British general election was a shock to many in the UK, then it was equally so for the chancelleries across the European Union. As much as they had started to think about a British renegotiation and referendum, there has been a very strong sense that the election result would throw that out of the window. Any such thoughts are now firmly gone. Dr Simon Usherwood explores the outcome of the British General Election and the implications for a British in-out EU referendum.

Partly because no one seemed to really expect to win a majority, all of the main parties in the election took a relatively firm line on the EU, so that they could use it in any coalition negotiations. Perhaps none had been as firm as the Tories, with their red line on renegotiation and a referendum: having suffering both internally and externally for stepping back from a popular vote on the Lisbon Treaty, David Cameron needed to be seen to following through.

Thus, it should be no surprise that in his earliest pronouncements after the results became clear, Cameron signalled that he was going to push through the necessary legislation for a vote in short order in the new parliament. While his party might disagree about many aspects of European policy, he can be assured that this will pass.

However, the easy part ends there.

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