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The UK can no longer afford to ignore the issue of its EU membership: the status quo is no longer an option for the UK public. Absent of EU reform, voters may vote to leave, but given the choice, would prefer to stay in a reformed EU.
22 January 2013
Two developments mean that the “do nothing option” is no longer viable for the UK in the EU. First, Eurozone integration is changing the rules of the game. The UK needs to secure its existing rights as a non-euro member state, and create space in Europe for countries that do not want to join the euro.
Second, as polling suggests, without any change, the UK electorate is likely to vote for an EU exit. However, polls also show that, when given the option, the public consistently backs the option of staying in on new terms. Renegotiation of Britain’s membership, followed by a referendum is, therefore, one of the few viable ways to square developments in Europe with UK public opinion.
Europe is facing three existential challenges: the Eurozone crisis; the EU’s dwindling global competitiveness (its share of global GDP is expected to be 60% of its 1990 level in five years); and the urgent need to connect the EU back to its voters. There is a compelling case for EU-wide reform to address these challenges.
The EU should roll back its one-size-fits all model where it is actively fuelling discontent or hampering the EU economy, and focus on doing more of what it does best: facilitating trade, both internally and externally.
Despite claims to the contrary – the UK has clout in the EU in several key areas:
Those who see uncertainty in negotiating for fundamental EU reform miss the point. The UK’s discomfort with the EU is already a fact, and the ‘do nothing’ option in itself feeds uncertainty. If the UK does not seek to renegotiate and deliver reform, it raises the spectrum that no pro-European campaign could hope to win an In/Out referendum in the future.
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