Thursday

21st Mar 2019

UK better off in EU for now, says eurosceptic think tank

  • Canary Wharf, London: Concern about its prized financial sector is one of the reasons for London's ambivalence about the EU (Photo: harshilshah100)

The UK would be better off staying in the EU, the country's foremost eurosceptic think tank says, amid a growing debate among Conservatives on the merits of a British exit from the European Union.

"From purely a trade perspective, EU membership remains the best option for the UK," Open Europe argues in a report published Monday (11 June).

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 18 year's of archives. 30 days free trial.

... or join as a group

"All the alternatives come with major drawbacks and would all … require negotiation with and the agreement of the other member states, which would come with unpredictable political and economic risks," it continues.

The report examines the idea - gaining traction among some eurosceptic Conservatives - that Britain could leave the EU but maintain its current trade relations, with the EU accounting for 48 percent of total UK goods and services exports.

But it rejects the four touted alternatives. The "Norway model," for example, would free the UK from expensive fishing and farm rules while giving the country access to the single market. However, the UK would have no say over the EU laws it would be obliged to implement.

Meanwhile, the "full-break" - a simple exit without any kind of brokered deal - would see British exporters "suddenly faced with new tariffs."

But the think tank, which is influential within Prime Minister David Cameron's Conservative Party, says "growing public hostility" means it should renegotiate it terms of membership.

"The common agricultural and fisheries policies, EU-wide regional funding, the impact of EU social and employment regulation on the UK economy and contributions to the EU’s budget" are cited as the downsides of membership.

And it notes that its current conclusion that EU membership is beneficial for trade reasons could change if the Union were to become more protectionist in the future.

The current eurozone crisis, likely to prompt treaty change, would be a useful opportunity for the UK to get its preferred "pick and mix" membership.

"As the Eurozone is likely to need a new set of EU Treaty arrangements to move towards further integration, which the UK must approve, Britain will have a unique opportunity to stake out its own model for EU membership."

The report comes as Cameron's Conservative party has been divided between hardliners who want Britain to leave the EU and moderates who want its membership renegotiated.

It also comes amid a wider academic discussion in Britain about its EU future. A recent paper by David Rennie, former Brussels correspondent for The Economist and now the magazine's political editor, suggests London's continued EU membership can no longer be taken for granted.

"It would be a mistake to assume, complacently, that sullen British acceptance of the status quo will continue indefinitely," writes Rennie.

"To a striking and novel degree, when senior officials hold policy seminars or forward-looking strategy debates, it is no longer seen as outlandish or naive to suggest that, if eurozone integration leads to grave clashes with British domestic priorities, Britain might end up better off out. As an idea, the possibility of British withdrawal is becoming normalised."

Meanwhile at the EU level, British recalcitrance may coincide with the sense of urgency within parts of the eurozone that further integration is the only way to solve the single currency crisis.

"We should not stay still because one or other [member state] does not yet want to join in," said German Chancellor Angela Merkel last week making the case for a two-speed Europe when it comes to giving Brussels more powers.

Merkel speaks out for two-speed Europe

German Chancellor Merkel has said she will push ahead with plans for a political union, including more powers to Brussels and a two-speed Europe if necessary.

EU commissioner picks fight with London after UK veto

EU economy chief Olli Rehn has warned the City of London will not escape European regulation of the financial sector and insisted there is firm legal ground for the use of the EU institutions to police a new 'fiscal compact.'

Cameron defends EU veto amid accusations of isolating Britain

In a stormy parliamentary debate highlighting the fall-out with his coalition partner, UK Prime Minister David Cameron struggled to defend his EU veto arguing he had safeguarded financial services from extra regulation, despite Brussels claiming the contrary.

Opinion

Eurozone approaching moment of truth

There may be decisions the euro area has to take to protect its financial stability, which could be detrimental to the rest of the EU if imposed on them, writes George Osborne.

UK promises thorough analysis of EU by 2014

The UK government has announced it will undertake a wide-ranging study of the EU so that any statements it makes about 'meddlesome' Brussels may be in future be backed up by hard evidence.

Opinion

Catalan independence trial is widening Spain's divides

What is really needed is not the theatre of a rebellion trial, but a forensic examination of whether public funds were misused, and a process of dialogue and negotiation on how the Catalan peoples' right to self-determination can be satisfied.

Orban hosts Weber in Budapest for EPP showdown

The future of the Viktor Orban's Fidesz party inside the European Parliament's centre-right EPP political group hangs in the balance. On Tuesday, Orban and EPP chief Manfred Weber meet in Budapest in a final effort to iron out differences.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersLeading Nordic candidates go head-to-head in EU election debate
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersNew Secretary General: Nordic co-operation must benefit everybody
  3. Platform for Peace and JusticeMEP Kati Piri: “Our red line on Turkey has been crossed”
  4. UNICEF2018 deadliest year yet for children in Syria as war enters 9th year
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic commitment to driving global gender equality
  6. International Partnership for Human RightsMeet your defender: Rasul Jafarov leading human rights defender from Azerbaijan
  7. UNICEFUNICEF Hosts MEPs in Jordan Ahead of Brussels Conference on the Future of Syria
  8. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic talks on parental leave at the UN
  9. International Partnership for Human RightsTrial of Chechen prisoner of conscience and human rights activist Oyub Titiev continues.
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic food policy inspires India to be a sustainable superpower
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersMilestone for Nordic-Baltic e-ID
  12. Counter BalanceEU bank urged to free itself from fossil fuels and take climate leadership

Latest News

  1. EPP suspends Orban's Fidesz party
  2. Macron is confusing rigidity with strength
  3. May tosses Brexit spanner into EU machinery
  4. Centre-right EPP faces showdown with Orban
  5. A compromise proposal for the Article 50 extension
  6. US glyphosate verdict gives ammunition to EU activists
  7. Have a good reason for Brexit extension, Barnier tells UK
  8. EU countries push for new rule of law surveillance

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Intercultural Dialogue PlatformRoundtable: Muslim Heresy and the Politics of Human Rights, Dr. Matthew J. Nelson
  2. Platform for Peace and JusticeTurkey suffering from the lack of the rule of law
  3. UNESDASoft Drinks Europe welcomes Tim Brett as its new president
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic ministers take the lead in combatting climate change
  5. Counter BalanceEuropean Parliament takes incoherent steps on climate in future EU investments
  6. International Partnership For Human RightsKyrgyz authorities have to immediately release human rights defender Azimjon Askarov
  7. Nordic Council of MinistersSeminar on disability and user involvement
  8. Nordic Council of MinistersInternational appetite for Nordic food policies
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersNew Nordic Innovation House in Hong Kong
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Region has chance to become world leader when it comes to start-ups
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersTheresa May: “We will not be turning our backs on the Nordic region”
  12. International Partnership for Human RightsOpen letter to Emmanuel Macron ahead of Uzbek president's visit

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us