On Saturday Feb. 20, British Prime Minister David Cameron announced that there will be a referendum on June 23 to decide whether Britain stays in the European Union (EU). This historical vote was announced after Cameron made a deal in Brussels granting concessions to the UK if they decide to stay.
Britain is split over this decision, understanding that there will be immense economic and political repercussions of either decision. Yet it seems evident through their ideals and their lack of commitment to the EU that it is in Britain’s best interest to leave Europe, which is now known as the Brexit.
Britain has a history of not fully committing to Europe. In 1978, Britain was the only member of the European Economic Community (EEC) not to join the European Monetary System. Britain failed to join 12 other Member States of the EU in adopting the euro, opting to keep their pound system instead in 2002, and this division spans farther than economics. In 1995, the UK refused to sign the Schengen Agreement.
This agreement allowed its member states to eliminate internal border controls, serving to increase trade and efficiency. This action displayed Britain’s lack of trust towards its European allies and its refusal to become a closer European polity. As Europe has evolved into a more unified conglomeration of nations, Britain has continuously fought to maintain its sovereignty.
Britain both has had to make concessions in their sovereignty and has damaged the EU’s progress towards its goal of a closer and more perfect union.
During the recent negotiations in Brussels, both Britain and the EU had to make sacrifices. While compromising on welfare and benefits, Britain was exempt from a treaty obligation to pursue an “even closer union.” This concession, even though mostly symbolic, displays that Britain’s views contradict some of the EU’s fundamental principles.
The UK issued a statement that displays its self-interest and lack of commitment. Its message was that Britain wants “the best of both worlds: all the advantages of the jobs and investment that come with being in the EU, without the downsides of being in the euro and open borders.” Britain’s mindset and the EU’s concessions challenge the integrity of the confederation.
Britain is not the only country questioning its commitment to the EU. Both Denmark and Sweden waver on their commitment to greater integration, and more countries are choosing to opt out of EU provisions, restricting trade and commerce and closing their borders themselves. When they try to please everyone, the EU creates structural problems.
There is speculation that if Britain votes to leave the organization, it might spark similar movements in other countries. This movement is important. Other countries questioning their commitment to a more unified European polity should establish whether or not they want to stay in the EU. Hesitant countries are restricting the organization from moving forward towards its goals and making it ineffective.
There are a lot of concerns in making the Brexit. Britain would be the first country to leave the EU, and there are only guesses at possible repercussions of the action. Britain would lose the free trade between member nations and possibly some of its international negotiating power. However, it would save billions of pounds in membership fees and would have control over its own immigration. It also would become free to establish trade agreements with non EU countries.
Currently, the vast majority of small and medium sized firms also do not trade with the EU but are restricted by large regulatory burdens imposed by the organization. As the world’s fifth largest, Britain should be able to adapt to the changes in trading that come with leaving the organization.
Britain is struggling to maintain sovereignty while staying in the EU, but this needs to stop. They are holding the organization back from the possibility of achieving its goals of a closer union and a more common European polity. As the first to leave the organization, other countries should welcome Britain with trading possibilities. It is better for all parties if uncommitted Member States leave the EU, and they should be supported when making that decision.
Alyssa Luis is a staff columnist for The Daily Campus opinion section. She can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.