Without You: Contemplating the UK-Free EU

♠ Posted by Emmanuel in at 10/25/2012 05:46:00 AM
Rest assured that it's not only the Chinese who have a habit of disowning Nobel laureates. For the longest time, the British have shown disdain for the European Union project over both their supposed loss of sovereignty and the waste of money going to Brussels (or was that Strasbourg?). To be sure, there are legitimate bases for complaint over these matters. However, there also comes a point when non-participation becomes so extreme as to question why the UK is in the EU at all. British Eurosceptics were thus among the loudest whingers when it was announced that the EU had won the Nobel Peace Prize for 2012. Which, if you come to think of it fairly enough, is entirely justifiable in the broader sense of preventing conflicts emanating from the continent that then spread worldwide--economic woes notwithstanding.

Consider the institutions of the EU which the UK is not a part of. It does not use the EU currency. Not does it participate in the Schengen visa scheme. It also avails of a budget rebate on the Common Agricultural Policy. More recently, of course, the UK has said that it wants little part in upcoming financial regulations, while also suggesting that it wants out of police and judicial cooperation. It has come to a point where, if the UK wants to opt out or water down nearly all aspects of EU cooperation, the question is asked: Why remain in the EU at all? British Eurosceptics have long wanted out of course, but now even the other ("real") continental Europeans are beginning to welcome the idea of the UK leaving them be:
Others confess they are tired of British lectures about how they should order their affairs...Mr Cameron’s administration has run out of what political scientists call “soft power”. The reservoir of goodwill is dry. When Britain demands assurances that the new banking union will not undercut its own influence over financial regulation, others ask why London should remain the continent’s pre-eminent financial centre.

There have been many crises in Britain’s relationship with the EU. This one feels very different. The arrangements for banking regulation may provide a template for a new institutional architecture that effectively excludes Britain from decision-making across the single market. The consequence would be to leave Britain in a position not dissimilar to that of EU outsiders such as Norway and Switzerland – bound by the rules and to pay their dues but unable to shape anything.
Some media commentators are already looking forward to "goodbye and good riddance." Is the constant British nyet actually behind the inability of the EU to deal with its current issues meaningfully? It is not a readily ignorable factor:
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."
It's really pointless for the EU to remain nominally inside the EU as a "satellite" member. In the same way that a woman is either pregnant or not--there is no such thing as being a "half-member" of the EU just as one cannot be "half pregnant."