EU referendum: Pundits mull future without Britain

 
German Chancellor Angela Merkel and British Prime Minister David Cameron at a press conference in Berlin The German chancellor is said to be undecided on how far to go to keep Britain in the EU

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British Prime Minister David Cameron's remarks at the end of June on a possible referendum on his country's relationship with the European Union have prompted pundits elsewhere in Europe to consider the possibility of the UK leaving the bloc altogether.

Opinions vary on how likely or desirable this is. Some would like Britain to stay in the EU, others consider that the country's eventual departure is all but inevitable, and a third group would positively welcome such a development.

Please stay!

The current edition of the German Council on Foreign Relations journal, Internationale Politik, includes an article on "The British question".

Its author, Hans Kundnani, argues that closer integration, which is "probably required" to resolve the euro crisis, "could force Britain to leave the EU".

He says German politicians and media appear to be divided over how important it is to prevent this. Chancellor Angela Merkel seems to be "torn both ways". Her intuitive preference for Britain to stay may come to be outweighed by the "overwhelming pressure" she faces to resolve the euro crisis.

However, Mr Kundnani himself warns that Britain's departure would be "fatal" for the bloc and that Mrs Merkel will have to make greater concessions to Britain if she wants to avoid such an outcome.

Others share this view. A commentary by Michael Stuermer in the German daily Die Welt says it is "in the German interest to keep Britain in the EU at almost any cost". Mr Stuermer praises the "free trade instincts" of the British and says European defence without the UK "would be a knife without a blade".

Hubert Wetzel in Germany's Sueddeutsche Zeitung is somewhat cooler on Britain's continued membership. "Of course Britain's departure would be a disaster for the EU. However, with all due respect, Europe has bigger problems," Mr Wetzel says.

Exit is inevitable!

Some French-language commentators, in particular, regard Britain's eventual departure from the EU as a foregone conclusion.

The Europe correspondent of the French daily Liberation, Jean Quatremer, is categorical. "In a few years' time, Britain will have left the EU," he says in a blog post.

Mr Quatremer argues that, in the face of the coming deepening of eurozone ties, Britain's traditional strategy of negotiating opt-outs might rapidly become "unmanageable" and "even quite simply impossible".

Jigsaw map of Europe (Thorsten Kirchhoff, CC BY) Some on the Continent believe Britain is inexorably moving towards leaving the EU

Add to that the "growing hysteria" in the British debate on the EU, and it becomes "difficult to see" how a referendum on EU membership can be avoided, "all the more since the new generation of Conservative leaders is fanatically europhobic".

A lengthy editorial in French on the EU-Logos website agrees that "the moment of truth has arrived" for the UK.

It says the launching of an audit of EU powers and their impact on the UK by Foreign Secretary William Hague is unlikely to stop the British march towards "a rejection, in one form or another, of the European Union, a rejection which is inexorably gaining ground".

The editorial appears to welcome the prospect of a British exit. "The attitude of the United Kingdom is calling the whole patiently constructed edifice into question too strongly and too clearly. Its refusals have disheartened the last of its defenders," it says.

Good-bye and good riddance!

There is in fact a body of opinion according to which Britain's departure would be a boon to a European Union which is being held back by London's constant objections.

"Does the United Kingdom have to leave the European Union?", asks Charles Nonne in a French-language article promoted on bloggingportal.eu.

The author laments the current paralysis of European integration and squarely puts the blame on the UK. "By withdrawing from the institutions of the European Union, the United Kingdom would offer the EU an opportunity to launch a real process of federalisation," he says.

In a German-language post on blogactiv.eu entitled "Without you then!", Andreas Sowa says a "less formal link between Britain and the EU seems to be a necessary evil on the way to an institutionally and conceptually functioning Europe" and concludes: "If you are not willing, then we shall proceed without you. For the next few steps, Europe does not need Britain."

Such sentiments are not entirely confined to EU blogging portals. In December 2011, the highbrow German weekly newspaper Die Zeit carried two articles on Britain's EU membership, one in favour and the other against. Making the case against, the paper's Brussels correspondent, Matthias Krupa, said that "Britain must decide what role it wants to play in the EU in future. As notorious naysayers, the British are redundant."

Europe jigsaw picture by Thorsten Kirchhoff, CC BY.

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  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 620.

    lmao ricardo, how is the uk not part of things such as open borders when 1 million polish people (est) upped sticks and moved to Britain when the policy came into force ?

    (thank heavens we are not in the euro.)

    @613, then we need to be more competitive with other nations, whether in or out of the EU. Also, you need to read the commonwealth charter instead of disney

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 619.

    592.paulfrindle


    Ever heard of guy called Charlemagne.

    Secondly Eurosceptism shouldn't be seen by the prism of conservative vs liberal, because Helmut Khol, Winston Churchil etc were all solid Conservatives who supported European integration. The Eurosceptism of the modern Tory is just that.. a contemporary phenomenon

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 618.

    Why is it every time there is a sensible debate on the UK's membership of the EU everyone thinks if the UK left the UK/EU would stop trading with each other??? So we are going to stop buying german Cars or we are going to stop selling state of the art Wind turbine parts to the EU, or Triumph sells 0 motorbikes to the EU? we buy no french cars? Simple lies, typical scaremongering tactics.

  • rate this
    +4

    Comment number 617.

    Rather than have a Referendum why don't we build a Time machine and send the people who want it back to the 1920s.

    They can dressup in Tweed and pretend to be Bertie Wooster.

    Then they can endure the Great Depression and WWII all over again.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 616.

    We are throwing out caring nurses and care workers from places like The Philippines (who respect the elderly and who speak good English) whilst allowing in millions of workers (sometimes just benefit recipients) from countries where they know no English, including many Eastern European countries.
    We HAVE to do this because of our membership of the EU ... so time to get out.

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 615.

    So, if the UK does leave the EU, do they still play on the European Ryder Cup team?

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 614.

    To those that believe that leaving the EU would in any way benefit us: it wouldn't.

    Economically, it's stupid. The major foreign manufacturers would leave causing mass unemployment and economic ruin.

    As for independence or having our own way? Washington, not London, would call the shots for the UK if it left the EU. So no joy there, either.

    Better part of a federal Europe than not in it at all.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 613.

    Some believe that the Commonwealth will welcome us with open arms. Yet an emperor without clothes might not be so welcome. The Indians have already shown they don't buy British unless the offer is the very cheapest and they're good at haggling.

  • rate this
    -1

    Comment number 612.

    607.TheRealist
    Except of course moving to another LA still only puts you a few hours from your family/friends by car, you speak the same language and the culture is roughly the same. Certainly not the case with Europe.

  • rate this
    -3

    Comment number 611.

    what utter two faced nonsense is being spouted by the little englanders on this page they have the bare faced cheek to complain about what the EU are doing to England whilst England is doing exactly the same thing to the other country's in the UK
    stop trying to draw comparisons between Scotland and England when there are NONE
    the english empire is long gone stop acting as if it was not
    Sid

  • rate this
    -3

    Comment number 610.

    I am constantly amazed at all the negative British articles and letters about the UE and Euro when you are not even in the Euro or part of many other things such as 'open borders'. Maybe you should spend more time looking at your own woeful financial situation and falling pound. It will be better for Europeans to have a EU without a fence sitting winging British.

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 609.

    Switzerland remains outside of the EU and hasn't seemed to be suffering for it; why can't the UK make a go of it in a similar fashion?

    One aspect I am 100% in favour of is restricting immigration from the EU zone; for example, why do we accept millions of foreign workers when we have our own university students who suffer huge debt in order to study & then find jobs scarce once they graduate?

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 608.

    606. why would leaving the EU mean that we could not trade with the EU?

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 607.

    UK as part of the EU is like a Local Authority as part of the UK. Consider if LAs were separate and competed for business throughout the UK. Some areas would thrive and some would fail and people would move to the most successful areas. Bring it all together and the wealth can be more evenly distributed. Now transfer that to the European landscape and that is how the EU is meant to work.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 606.

    582. David Horton
    Surely the comparable figures are something like this: EU represents about 52% of UK trade; UK represents 8% of EU trade. The UK needs the EU far more than vice-versa.

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 605.

    Boris, formerly the Telegraph's Reporter at the EU, used to regale us all the time with the mad, devious, sneaky goings on - that the Plebean taxpayers like me had to finance via our Taxes. He didn't write anything positive about the EU. What does Boris think now? William Hague has done nothing to restrict the EU - even though he always PRETENDS to be a Europhobe sceptic. Can we nuke Strasbourg?

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 604.

    If Britain does leave the EU as some of the EU pundits would love to believe, it will be in no small part because it has always been against a federal Europe. The fact that EU federalisation is now on the cards stems from EU weaknesses not strengths. And as a solution it arguably deepens the phoney unity created by the Euro. Britain won't buy this. Other EU member states shouldn't buy it either.

  • rate this
    +5

    Comment number 603.

    For roughly half a millenium, several European Great Powers were able to colonise huge swathes of the planet. Those days are over - the only way for Europe to have comparable clout in the centuries ahead is for the former colonial powers to hang together, with different, rather more equitable trading relationships with their former colonies. Change is happening, and Europe must be equipped for it.

  • rate this
    -5

    Comment number 602.

    If the UK left, it would not be any of the 26 other member states that would suffer; it would be the UK that would be economically hammered to the extent that 'quantitative easing' would be a quantitative collapse of sterling with all the dire results that may be imagined.

  • rate this
    -2

    Comment number 601.

    Let's note that Britain was gung-ho for the EU and its predecessor the EEC when Britain was doing badly and Europe, especially Germany, was the envy of the West. Now the EU is over-extended coping with the economies of the perennial weaklings and Britain wants out. The oppressive rule-making in Brussels is only a small part of the reason to leave.

 

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