No I haven’t just misquoted Shakespeare, it’s the question behind the Lib-Con proposed referendum on the European Union. We’re almost three years into the coalition government and the coalition’s future is still uncertain. Nobody knows what the next general election holds, if the Conservatives will retain power or if the student fees have put the final nail in the coffin for the Lib Dems. One thing is for sure, the future isn’t black and white (or blue and red as the case may be). With the emergence of UKIP as a third party there’s a possibility they could take the role of kingmaker in the next election, a role the Lib Dems played in the last one. If this is to happen David Cameron would be forced to provide them with a bargaining tool, an incentive if you will. Just as he promised Nick Clegg the referendum on the alternative vote, he may have to do the same in order to win a majority. So how would he do it? What do UKIP stand for above all? Leaving the EU. Pressure from the right may encourage Cameron to relent, however such a large decision is not straight forward. There are many factors to take into account when assessing whether or not Britain should remain in the EU.
It is often said that sovereignty is unwillingly sacrificed for the sake of being a part of the EU, shown by the fact that 60% of British law is in fact sourced from the EU. Parliament is limited by the decisions it can make as they must be approved by the EU. This presents a danger of turning the EU into a giant country or continent of sorts with larger, richer, more powerful countries dictating over the smaller ones. An example of this which has already taken place is within the fishing trade, many restrictions have been imposed as the seas of Britain are now, in fact, owned by all of the European Union. Another possibly detrimental factor, depending on how it is perceived, is free movement between countries for EU members. This is one the key reasons as to why UKIP and a proportion of British people wish to depart from the EU. These are all justified reasons, although the benefits outweigh the costs.
The UK depends hugely on Europe for trade and the economy benefits from this, in leaving the EU the UK risks their already fragile economy by cutting off such huge trade partners. In addition, if a national crisis occurred or Britain were forced to go to war, many allies would have been isolated, placing such a tiny island in a very dangerous position. Returning to the issue of immigration; it can be a hugely positive factor as many European people make invaluable contributions to the economy by working here. In cutting off immigration prospects many jobs may open up that will simply not be filled, jobs that are necessary in order to keep the British economy afloat. In addition, in being a part of the EU the UK helps developing countries which can only be a good thing for the global community, better relations within Europe can lead to better relations between Europe and the world.
So, whether or not the referendum will take place is questionable, the aim is for it to be voted on by the end of 2017, so after the next general election has taken place. Whilst an in/out referendum may seem conducive, the electorate may view it differently when they see the negative impact that being on the outside of the EU truly brings about. Remaining in the EU will help further the UK onto the world stage, whilst leaving the EU can only serve to decrease its status, a decrease that such a small island surely cannot afford to face.
BY: Yasmin Levy-Miller