Director's Blog

How Future UK European Referendums Might Happen

tim oliver

by Dr Tim Oliver, Dahrendorf Fellow on Europe-North America Relations, LSE Ideas


Further referendums on Britain’s European question could happen whatever the result of June’s vote. In a recent report for the Federal Trust, Why the EU Referendum Will Not be the End of the Story, Dr Tim Oliver set out how the forthcoming referendum will not settle the European question and mapped out the different ways in which future referendums might come to pass.

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The EU provides often-overlooked economic benefits for the UK

The EU provides often-overlooked economic benefits for the UK




By Viara Bojkova, Head of Geo-Economics Programme & Senior Research Fellow at the Global Policy Institute.


The big campaigns for the UK to stay in or leave the EU paint pictures of alternative futures with a large brush. ‘We must have the enormous market and the regulatory protection afforded by a bloc of 500m affluent citizens’. Or else, ‘The virile UK must not be hampered by a hapless band of failing bureaucrats, but should find its fortunes among the thrusting emerging markets’. Our mainstream, Eurosceptic press love such caricatures but overlooks niche areas that have important economic significance for the UK. Three of these are: UK Universities and their R&D activities; the involvement of the UK space industry with the European Space Agency and pan-European companies, and the dynamic emerging market represented by the east European countries of the EU.

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Debate about Europe must be based on fact, not myth

by Baroness Quin, House of Lords; Council Member of the Federal Trust

4th August 2015

This article first appeared on the European Movement website.

One of the biggest myths about the circumstances in which Britain joined the EEC (as it was then) in 1972 was that what we were being offered was simply a trading arrangement which did not involve pooling or loss of sovereignty. Those propagating this myth therefore claim repeatedly that the British people were sold a dishonest prospectus about what European membership involved.

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Removing regulatory burdens to make the EU more user-friendly

Removing regulatory burdens to make the EU more user-friendly

By Richard Seebohm, former Representative in Brussels of the Quaker Council for European Affairs

June 2015

As Samuel Johnson once said, patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel. I wonder if the term sovereignty is not tarred with the same brush. The debate on EU membership is conducted at times on the broad concept that it is wrong for us to let foreigners tell us what to do. What could or should matter rather more to us ‘hard working people’ is the outcome rather than the power – exactly what the foreigners are telling us to do.

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The only certainty is uncertainty

by Brendan Donnelly

This article first appeared on euroblog, the Blog of the European Movement:


During the referendum on voting reform in 2011, it was sometimes claimed by advocates of the present British electoral system, misleadingly known as “first past the post,” that it tended to produce definite outcomes, with clear Parliamentary majorities for the winning party. This claim may well have been true in the days when the Conservative and Labour Parties between them accounted for three quarters or more of the total votes cast. The growing fragmentation of British political allegiances has now however turned our electoral system into a statistical lottery, which will be painfully demonstrated in the General Election. No party is likely to have a majority, and the overall result will be disfigured by a range of anomalies. The Liberal Democrats will almost certainly obtain many more seats than will the Greens or UKIP, although they may well receive fewer votes nationally than each of these other parties, perhaps significantly fewer in the case of UKIP. Although  the SNP will receive a substantially smaller share of the national vote than either the Greens, the Liberal Democrats or UKIP, it may well end up with as many seats in Parliament as those three parties combined. All observers of British elections know that for any given percentage of the national vote accruing to Labour or the Conservatives, Labour will obtain more seats from that percentage than will the Conservatives.   If by any chance Labour or the Conservatives did achieve an absolute majority, it would be with the support of just over one third of those voting.

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Blair and Cameron: Two Peas in a European Pod

A Personal View from Brendan Donnelly

It is sometimes said that David Cameron regards Tony Blair as his political model. The European policies of the two Prime Ministers may appear superficially very different. Mr. Blair presented himself as fundamentally favourable to the European Union, and Mr. Cameron is at best unenthusiastically and conditionally acquiescent in continued British membership of the Union. But the underlying similarities of their approach to the Union, both in public presentation and in long term outcomes are undeniable. Both have framed their European policies almost exclusively in terms of a tactically convenient “triangulation” between two rejected extremes of European policy. In both cases this contentless “triangulation” led to an inevitably unstable European policy, tending remorselessly towards greater British hostility towards the European Union.

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Book Review: “Is the EU Doomed?” by Jan Zielonka

Review by Brendan Donnelly

Much of this short book by Professor Jan Zielonka of Oxford University is rightly devoted to the euro. It is on the success or failure of the single European currency that the answer to the question of the book’s title “Is the EU doomed?” will essentially depend. Zielonka’s belief that the EU may well be doomed is summarized in the words “interdependence no longer generates integration but instead prompts disintegration.” On this analysis, the single European currency will prove to have been an error of historic proportions, achieving precisely the opposite of what its founders intended.

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Learning Through Suffering: European Lessons for the British Government

by Brendan Donnelly

A number of lessons can be learned from the diplomatic reverse suffered by the British government in its attempts to prevent Mr. Juncker from becoming President of the European Commission.

1. British governments are prone grossly to exaggerate the extent of support they enjoy for their political attitudes and choices within the European Union. In this respect, Mr. Cameron’s attempt to thwart Mr. Juncker’s candidature was entirely similar to his unsuccessful attempt to prevent the adoption of the Fiscal Compact in 2011. British diplomats and politicians are altogether too willing to interpret vague expressions of goodwill from their European colleagues as firm endorsement of idiosyncratic British views about the Union and its future. This over-interpretation of what is often little more than conventional politeness leads British officials and politicians to misperception of the real alignment of forces within the Union and unseemly petulance toward their colleagues when this misperception is later revealed in its full futility.

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Three Cheers for European Democracy

by Brendan Donnelly

If Jean-Claude Juncker becomes the next President of the European Commission, it will mark an important development in the democratic life of the European Union. Millions of voters in the recent European Elections will see their favoured candidate take on one of the most important posts in the Union. Millions of other voters who preferred unsuccessful candidates such as Mr. Schulz and Mr. Verhofstadt will be aware that they have participated in a transparent and democratic election, in which their views have not prevailed on this occasion, but may well do so at the next European Elections. It is a strange paradox that precisely in this country, where criticism of the European Union’s supposed democratic inadequacies is widespread, politicians and commentators have been so reluctant to recognize this qualitative change for the democratic betterment of the Union. It has long been a reasonable complaint about the European Elections that the electors did not know for what they were voting. The linking of the European Elections of 2014 to the Presidency of the Commission was a powerful response to this criticism.

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What do the European Election results really mean?

by Brendan Donnelly
First published on the European Movement Blog
Predictably, many commentaries in the British mass media have gloatingly presented the European Elections as a continent-wide reject ion of the process of European integration, as the long-ignored peoples of Europe rising up in democratic wrath against their oppressors in Brussels. The results of the European Elections are however much more ambiguous and mixed than that. It is true that just over a quarter of the French and British electorates voted respectively for the Front National and UKIP and extremist parties of right and left did well in Greece, while Denmark saw success  for the anti-immigrant party of Mr. Messerschmidt. But against this must be set the 93% of the German electorate who voted for pro-EU parties, the victories for pro-EU governing parties in Italy, Spain, Poland and the Czech Republic and the poor result of the Eurosceptic Mr. Wilders in the Netherlands. The European Elections certainly demonstrate that there are deep-rooted economic problems within a number of European countries.  But these problems are essentially national rather than European problems. France and the United Kingdom well illustrate this point.

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