The forever agonising awkward relationship the UK has with the European Union will be put to the people at a rushed referendum on EU membership brought about by pressure towards David Cameron, Prime Minister by his Conservative Party eurosceptics. The date will be 23rd June 2016.
People are expected to proceed to the ballot boxes to answer a fundamental question “Should the United Kingdom remain a member of the European Union or leave the European Union?” And while many see the date itself to be the day on which the faith of Europe is to be sealed, FEPS together with its British Members - Fabian Society and Policy Network - is aiming at analysing the entire development from a broader perspective.
First of all, the negotiations process has kept the EU hostage for a while - making it impossible to make progress with important dossiers. That is because decisions on the matters, such as the infamous already “Mobility Package” have been postponed until after the EU will have responded to the demands formulated by the British Prime Minister David Cameron. Although in the aftermath of the recent summit there is no agreement if the deal reached is indeed redefining the membership condition, there is no doubt that the process itself has already established precedent and herewith changed the nature of policy making within the EU. That is an issue that FEPS wishes to explore, seeking to anticipate on the political consequences of it in a long term perspective.
Secondly, while the political forces in favour of the UK leaving the EU have been quite aggressive with their message - the campaign in favour of staying altogether has been troubled. Europe is at the crossroads itself, it is facing numerous challenges (from the results of the economic crisis to the questions of how to deal with the migration emergency). This makes it hard to anchor the communication on a tangible promise of better future prospects, prosperity and progress that the integration should guarantee for all its inhabitants. This clearly points out that what is desperately needed not only in the UK, but also across other Member States where the anti-European forces are growing in strength, is to devise a clear, positive case for Europe.
Thirdly, there is a clear anticipation that the existing gap between the EU and its citizens have grown significantly. In fact specifically Brussles is blamed for almost everything these days, seen to be distanced and bureaucratic from real people. It no longer manifests itself only in the low participation rates in the EU elections, but also is exhibited by negativity of people living in the EU on a daily basis. Here the outstanding example is the fear that citizens tend to have regarding the sustainability of the freedom of movement of workers and the principles of equal treatment, as applied in practice. The distributional conflicts seem to be growing. These need a progressive response that would show the way out, while abiding by and reinforcing the belief in core values of solidarity and equality.
With that in mind, FEPS has taken upon a handful of projects, which hopefully will contribute to coining convincing, progressive argument for more and not less integration. The list of these entails so far:
- FEPS and Fabian Society research project on the attitudes of the British citizens towards the European Union - it aims at echoing what is being the core sense of so called “kitchen table” debates in order to seek a convincing, progressive agenda for Europe from the UK’s perspective. Though the attitudes are to be analysed in the current political climate, the idea is to see what postulates should eventually be at the heart of the UK’s Presidency and proclaimed by the Labour Party ahead of the EU elections 2019.
- FEPS and Policy Network Brussels debate - featuring among the others Lord (Roger) Liddle, Chair of Policy Network, Anita Pollack, Former MEP, Richard Corbett, MEP, Jo Leinen MEP:
- Book launch “New Labour in Europe: Leadership and Lost Opportunities”, written by Anita Pollack, former MEP
- Looking into the Europe’s future – the perspective of the UK’s referendum
- FEPS, Fabian, Policy Network, Foundation Jean Jaures Seminar in Paris on 10th April - to look at the political implications of the process at hand and foresee how the ‘day after the referendum’ may shape.