Euroscepticism (opposition to the policies of multinational European organizations and/or opposition to UK membership in such bodies), is a controversial issue and has been a significant element in the politics of the United Kingdom (UK) since the inception of the European Communities — comprising the European Economic Community (EEC), the European Atomic Energy Community (EAEC) and the European Coal and Steel Community (ECSC) — the predecessor to the European Union (EU).


[hide]*1 History of euroscepticism in the political parties

[edit] History of euroscepticism in the political partiesEdit

Though it was the Conservative Party that took the United Kingdom into the EU (then the European Communities), many Conservatives subsequently became hostile to the EU. One of the earliest groups formed to specifically oppose UK involvement in Europe was the initially Conservative Party-based Anti-Common Market League.

Conversely, much of the opposition to Britain’s EU membership used to come from Labour Party politicians and trade unionists fearful that bloc membership would impede socialism. However, many in the Labour Party subsequently came to welcome the EU. This shift largely took place in the 1980s during the period of Margaret Thatcher's premiership, when she aggressively pursued right-wing policies whilst Jacques Delors in his role as President of the European Commission emphasised the idea of a "social Europe", particularly in his speech to the 1988 TUC congress.[1]

Although the (Conservative) British government of the time was, in principle, favourable to the creation of the European Communities, it did not become a founding member. However, after some years, trade with European Communities ended up accounting for more of Britain's trade than with the European Free Trade Association (EFTA), which had been established (in part) as an alternative to the European Communities. Britain therefore reconsidered its policy, moving closer to the EEC and opening accession negotiations in 1961.

French president Charles de Gaulle strongly resisted, arguing that the UK was closer to U.S. policies than European ones[citation needed], and would thus try to "sabotage" the community. Consequently, France vetoed the UK's membership bid in 1963.

The Labour Party, then in opposition, spoke against the European Communities. Party leader Hugh Gaitskell once declared that joining the European Communities would mean "the end of a thousand years of history"[citation needed]. A second attempt was made in 1967, but it was again rejected by a French veto.

When de Gaulle stepped down from power, UK membership prospects improved. Labour changed its traditionally hostile policy against the European Communities and became more favourable. After the party came to power, Britain applied to join for a third time in 1969. Finally, Britain joined the communities under the Conservative administration in 1973.

Despite the decision to join the European Communities, scepticism about membership prompted the Labour government to hold a referendum in 1975 on the permanence in the community. The question on the paper was: "Parliament has decided to consult the electorate on the question whether the UK should remain in the European Economic Community: Do you want the UK to remain in the EEC?" British membership of the EEC was endorsed by 67.2% of those voting, with a turnout of 64.5%.

The debate between Eurosceptics and pro-Europeans is ongoing in British political parties whose membership is of varied standpoints. The two main political parties in Britain, the governing Conservative Party, and the Labour Party opposition both have within them a broad spectrum of views concerning the European Union. However, the majority of Conservatives are typically Eurosceptic whilst most Labour Party members are usually more in favour on the issue.

In the 1970s and the early 1980s the Labour Party was the more Eurosceptic of the two parties, having more anti-European Communities MPs than the Conservatives. In 1975 Labour held a special conference on British membership and the party voted 2-to-1 for Britain to leave the European Communities.[2] In 1979 the Labour manifesto[3] declared that a Labour government would "oppose any move towards turning the Community into a federation" and in 1983[4] they favoured British withdrawal from the EEC. Under the leadership of Neil Kinnock after 1983, however, the Labour Party dropped their opposition to the European Communities and instead favoured greater British integration into European Economic and Monetary Union.

However, many commentators [5] believe over-interest in the issue to be an important reason why the Conservative Party lost the General Election of 2001. They argue that the British electorate was more influenced by domestic issues than by European affairs.

After the electoral defeat of the UK Conservatives in 2001, the issue of eurosceptism was important in the contest to elect a new party leader. The winner, Iain Duncan Smith, was seen as more eurosceptic than his predecessor, William Hague, and concern was expressed that his victory could result in an inflammation of the issue within the party.

As opposition leader, Iain Duncan Smith attempted to disaffiliate the British Conservative Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) from the federalist European People's Party Group. As MEPs must maintain a pan-European alliance to retain parliamentary privileges, Duncan Smith sought the merger of Conservative MEPs into the eurosceptic Union for a Europe of Nations (UEN) group. Conservative MEPs vetoed this move because of the presence within the UEN of representatives of neo-fascist parties who do not share similar domestic politics. In 2004, Duncan Smith's successor, Michael Howard, emphasised that Conservative MEPs would remain in the EPP Group so as to maintain influence in the European Parliament. However Michael Howard's successor, David Cameron pledged to remove Conservative MEPs from the EPP Group.

The Labour Party is also split into eurosceptic and pro-European factions. Historically, the party tended towards euroscepticism, but under Tony Blair its policies became generally pro-European. However, a significant minority of Labour MPs have formed the Labour Against the Euro group, opposing British membership of the single currency. The group has support from minority parts of the Trade Union movement, while the majority of trade unions remain staunchly pro-EU.

The UK's third-largest parliamentary party, the Liberal Democrats, is strongly pro-EU and advocates institutional reform and a greater role for national parliaments in scrutinising EU legislation.

The United Kingdom Independence Party, which advocates the UK's complete withdrawal from the European Union, received 16% of the vote and gained 12 MEPs in the 2004 European Election. The party was subsequently weakened by a leadership struggle and the defection of prominent member Robert Kilroy-Silk. In the following General Election of 2005 neither UKIP nor Kilroy-Silk's new Veritas party succeeded in gaining a substantial percentage of the vote, or any seats in parliament. It has however done significantly better in the 2009 European Elections, coming in second, above the incumbent Labour Party [6]

The Scottish National Party (SNP) has tended to be pro-European since the 1980s. As the SNP's heartlands tend to be in fishing and farming areas of Scotland, they have been seen as a real threat to the pro-European SNP. However, this has not yet emerged. Polls show[citation needed] there is some Euroscepticism in Scotland, but neither UKIP nor the Conservatives have a significant level of support in Scotland. The SNP believes that the existence of the EU makes an independent Scotland more feasible than it might have otherwise been - the EU provides an institutional framework that protects its smaller member states, and guarantees them trade and other opportunities that without the EU might not have existed to the same extent. It also believes that the EU's social policies provide some protection to Scotland, as part of the UK, against policies of any Conservative in Whitehall.

[edit] Euroscepticism in the British pressEdit

Among Britain's main national newspapers, those that take a broadly Eurosceptic line are the Daily Mail, Daily Express, The Daily Telegraph, The Sun and The Times,[7] as well as their respective Sunday sister publications[citation needed]. All of these newspapers tend to oppose further European integration and have called for ratification of the Lisbon Treaty to be subject to a referendum. The Eurosceptic press has often been highly critical of the European Union and its policies, and in November 2010 the Daily Express became the first British newspaper to officially call for Britain to withdraw from the EU.[8]

The European Union has accused the British Press of circulating inaccurate or exaggerated stories (which it terms Euromyths), most of which give the impression of absurd bureaucracy and over-regulation.[9] The daily newspaper of the hard-left, The Morning Star (connected to the Communist Party of Britain) takes an internationalist, Marxist eurosceptic position. Under the editorship of Mark Seddon, Tribune, the journal of the Labour Movement, tended to give space to eurosceptic contributors, including controversially, Marc Glendening of the Democracy Movement. This position was defended by other centre-left eurosceptics who also spoke on platforms with the Democracy Movement.

[edit] Arguments for British EU withdrawalEdit

The strongest eurosceptics – both inside and outside of the political parties – advocate British withdrawal from the EU altogether.[10]

In the UK, attitudes toward membership of the European are divided. In a recent poll, 32% of the British population as a whole thought membership of the EU was "a bad thing", higher by 8 percentage points than any other EU country; 30% thought membership was a 'good thing', lower than any country apart from Latvia.[11] According to the same poll, 49% of those polled believed that the UK had not benefited from EU membership, with only 36% perceiving benefits from membership.[11]

Opponents of the EU also accuse it and its politicians and civil servants of being wholly corrupt. One example of such claims of corruption comes from the fact that the EU has not had its accounts signed off for the last 13 years by its own auditors,[12] which has resulted in billions of euros being unaccounted for. Further claims of corruption have been aimed at the highest level. In 2005, Nigel Farage MEP requested that the European Commission disclose where individual Commissioners had spent their holidays. The Commission did not provide the information requested, on the basis that the Commissioners had a right of privacy. The German newspaper Die Welt reported that the President of the European Commission, José Barroso had spent a week on the yacht of the Greek shipping billionaire Spiro Latsis. It emerged soon afterwards that this had occurred only a month before the Commission approved 10.3 million euros of Greek state aid for Latsis' shipping company.[13]

List of known Eurosceptic British Politicians:

Serving Conservative MPs:

Retired Conservative MPs:

Serving Labour MPs:

Retired Labour MPs:

[edit] See alsoEdit

[edit] ReferencesEdit

  1. ^ Katwala, Sunder (2007-09-12). "Bring Back Social Europe". London: Retrieved 2008-09-04.
  2. ^ "1975: Labour votes to leave the EEC". BBC News. 1975-04-26. Retrieved 2010-05-02.
  3. ^
  4. ^
  5. ^ "Tories facing identity crisis". CNN. 2001-06-08. Retrieved 2010-05-02.
  6. ^ "European Election Results 2009, UK Results". BBC News. 2009-04-19. Retrieved 2010-05-02.
  7. ^ Anderson, Peter J. (2005). "A Flag of Convenience? Discourse ann Motivations of the London-based Eurosceptic Press". In Robert Harmsen, Menno Spiering. Euroscepticism: Party Politics, National Identity and European Integration. European Studies. Rodopi. pp. 151. ISBN 9789042019461. Retrieved 2009-12-17.
  8. ^ - Home of the Daily and Sunday Express | UK News :: Get Britain out of Europe: Massive support for our crusade
  9. ^ Euromyth: EU to rename UK place names
  10. ^ Lewis F. Abbott, British Withdrawal From the European Union: A Guide to the Case For, ISR/Google Books, 2002. ISBN 978-0-906321-23-2.[1]
  11. ^ a b "Standard Eurobarometer 72 Table of Results, Standard Eurobarometer 72: Public Opinion in the European Union (fieldwork October - November 2009) First Results" (pdf). European Commission. December 2009. Retrieved 2009-12-17.
  12. ^ Hannan, Daniel (2007-11-14). "Why aren't we shocked by a corrupt EU?". The Daily Telegraph (London). Retrieved 2010-05-02.
  13. ^ Castle, Stephen (2005-05-26). "Barroso survives confidence debate over free holiday with Greek tycoon". The Independent (London). Retrieved 2010-05-02.
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