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
    0

    Comment number 700.

    CheeryAllyJ 698 - haven't you been following the thread? - that's exactly what it is

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 699.

    695.... Polite question.

    How does the possibilty of a referendum of UK membership in Europe have any ramifications for you in the South Pacific? And why are you have a negative view of the UK?

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 698.

    'What if the EU do not want us as a trading partner'...you do understand how business works ?

    So VW, Mercedes and BMW for a start will not be selling 1mil vehicles in the UK due to the EU??...again the typical scaremongering answer always trotted out, this isn't the school playground.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 697.

    frogspawn - 'trying to put an end to yaddayadda. Yup, somewhere in an underground cavern near Brussels there's a scary bald man in a Nehru jacket who pulls all the strings, and world powers dance to his tune without knowing it and there's only one man who can save us and that's Hague, wee willie hague.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 696.

    phild, another pro euro person insulting the anti euros as idiots hoping that most people will consider themselves to be educated and as such will vote pro euro. Insulting popular opinion wont swing it in your favour.

    Is the pro euro position on the EU really so weak that this is what they have to resort to ? YES, YES IT IS.

  • rate this
    -3

    Comment number 695.

    @159 gooner

    "...we have the Commonwealth to trade with....."

    Do you believe in fairy tales.
    I live in a former GB colony which is still in the Commonwealth ( a useless outfit).

    You look around my country and you won't find much from the UK,especially nothing of value. You have nothing to sell.

    There is lots Chinese, Japanese and German value stuff.

    My anglo neighbours have 2 German cars.

  • rate this
    +3

    Comment number 694.

    To: james3thomas

    I take it that as you seem to know that we will be better off out of it then you must know everything about how the UK works with Europe. Could you please tell me the trade deficit between Europe and the UK and how it would be affected if we left. You should know this instantly if you can assure me we are better off out of Europe.

  • Comment number 693.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this
    +5

    Comment number 692.

    #South pacific
    'You can't compete with the Chinese, Japanese, Germans and even the US.

    At least not where I live. You don't see much stuff from the UK here,
    nothing of value.'

    You dont have any Triumph Motorbikes, Wind turbines, Arm processor mobile devices or use any drugs from glaxo or oil from BP, or of course weapons made by BAE to protect you from those nasty chinese either then eh..

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 691.

    684. Scott0962 "succeeding generations have every right to re-examine [Treaties] and ... re-negotiate or end them."
    But only if they're still a separate nation! That's why the Eurocrats are trying to put an end to national sovereignty - so they rule FOR EVER.

    683. squeezy "[The French] only pay lip service to many european laws... No problems here."
    Until the Eurocrats decide to crack down!

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 690.

    The reason they shouldn't have a 'democratic' referendum is that the doom-mongering media have effectively made a NO vote a certainty. As useless as our politicians are, they understand this can't be allowed.

    Is it really democracy when the misinformed masses don't actually understand what they're voting about?

    I'm fed up with all the entirely unnecessary hatred on any article about the EU.

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 689.

    south pacific
    why can we not continue to trade with Europe but not be forced to obey European laws and pathetic rules like equal access to social system which we are explotied for. We harbour more eastern bloc criminals than any othe country in the world. We can trade with Europe but not be ruled by them? Also we follow more Euro rules than the Europeans especially in farming so lose out anyway

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 688.

    'The EU is a trading block, imposing tariffs and restrictions on those who wish to trade with it'

    Oh really tell that to China......oddly they dont enforce the same labour laws so that is a misnoma straight away another scaremongering story...

  • rate this
    -1

    Comment number 687.

    I find it amusing that many here think that the Uk will have a trading advantage by leaving the EU.

    Who you are going to sell your stuff too?? The wider world?? Don't be daft you don't have much to sell that the wider world wants.

    You can't compete with the Chinese, Japanese, Germans and even the US.

    At least not where I live. You don't see much stuff from the UK here,
    nothing of value.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 686.

    Will Britain be worse off out of Europe? Defiantly not. Also A great way to stop immigration in the UK. If we stay in the EU we should impose a £5Million fine for every person that comes into the UK from their unsecured borders (which are mostly patrolled by UK border agency again at cost of TAX payers)

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 685.

    I'm with modharry and Ticky. I fought in 12 world wars and half starved in a land fit for heroes not to get taken over by them Europeans and then I voted no to the EEC and anything it stood for an what thanks do I get? nothing - that's what. when will we stand up and be the proud nation that stands alone like modharry and Tiocky says. and Scott0962 is right as well.

  • rate this
    +3

    Comment number 684.

    632.Pete 1000: "What is the relevance of saying those under 55 didn't get a chance to vote on Europe?"

    Government gets its legitimate power from the consent of the people. Agreements and treaties are not holy writ, succeeding generations have every right to re-examine them and if they feel they are no longer of benefit to re-negotiate or end them.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 683.

    The UK is to blame for it's own predicament. As an expat in France I see the Frenck keep their national identity and only pay lip service to many european laws they consider bad; I can buy milk at my supermarket fresh from the farm, unpastrerised, as is much of the local cheese. I can but a whole pig or sheep from my local farmer killed buy him and cut up by a local butcher. No problems here.

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 682.

    The best example of why there should not be a referendum is the way that many of the most sensible comments have been negatively rated by, no doubt, a load of xenophobic right wingers who probably call the French frogs and haven't forgiven Germany for the second WW!
    Or has UKIP mobilised it's few members to plague HYS?
    Watch this go negatively rated at speed.....

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 681.

    I worked in Oz and when the work run out I was sent packing . Well done to the Australian government for truly looking after their people, there wealth and their jobs for citizens. Yes we too are entitle to dole in Poland should we find ourselves there and out of work All thanks to the EU. Only problem is they only offer bread and water.

 

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