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The Great British Question: The EU Referendum

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After months and months of anticipation and hyperbolic claims that he is battling for Britain, David Cameron has finally managed to secure a deal which enables Britain to have ‘special-status’ within the European Union and the ability to opt-out of any future move towards an European ‘super-state’.

While the EU has never tried to hide its intention to bring about a closely integrated Europe, it remains to be seen exactly how many other European countries are looking to have their identities eroded as alluded to by the various Eurosceptic MPs.

In the last few days The Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, has come out in support of leaving the European Union; this has led to bitter swipes being taken between himself and Cameron and it now appears that we are seeing a great deal of internal fighting within the Conservative party with Cameron attempting to silence his Eurosceptic backbenchers once and for all. He will also been keen to quell any other attempts by the UK Independence Party to poach both Conservative voters and MPs.

It is undeniable that certain sections of British society have long struggled to come to terms with the fact that Britain is very much a key player in European affairs. This was perfectly illustrated through The Times of London headline in Oct 1957: “Heavy Fog In The Channel. Continent Cut Off”. The rejection of their European identity by sections of the British public suggests that many have yet to come to terms with the fact that the age of empires is long over and Britain is no longer the force it once was in the world.

Despite the fact that Britain appears to currently have a strained relationship with Europe, the country’s status as a member state within the European Union was actually ushered in with strong support from the British voting public, with 67% backing membership in 1975. However, while it may appear that Cameron is now offering the British people a democratic choice to reverse that decision, a cynic would argue that it is a tactic to appease his own Eurosceptic backbenchers and voters. It also gives us a clear insight into who will be the next Conservative leader as in the event of the people voting to stay, we can anticipate that George Osborne will be propelled to the top position once Cameron steps down; on the other hand, should the decision be to leave, there is a distinct possibility that Boris Johnson would be leading Britain’s primary right-of-centre political party.

It cannot be denied that times have certainly changed and that both Europe and the World in general are completely different to what we knew in the mid-1970s. This is particularly true when we consider the threat of international terrorism, arguably the greatest threat to civilisation today.

There has also been a shift in terms of technological advances, which will allow British citizens living outside of Britain but in the European Union the right to vote online rather than having to return to the country to vote in the traditional polling station. This also applies to MEPs who now have the ability to register their opinion and feedback via a conference voting system when meeting in the European Parliament.

Political opinion on EU membership, much like that of the public, is very much divided but US president Barrack Obama has hinted heavily that a vote to leave the European Union would also see Britain’s relationship with the USA weakened. To many outsiders it is difficult to understand exactly what the advantages are of Britain deciding to leave.

About the author

Bradley Young