The European Union has been coming under increasing fire from within, as member states are threatening to break away in favor of greater autonomy. In Britain, a renewed effort has been sparked in corporate circles to hold a referendum on the issue. Dubbed a ‘Brexit’, talk of a British Exit from the EU has been making its rounds. Dipping his feet into the pool, the Director-General of the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC) – John Longworth – believes it is high time the referendum was held. The UK is set for parliamentary elections in May 2015, and Longworth believes that the British corporate sector would appreciate resolution on the issue before the scheduled referendum in 2017.
Businesses in the BCC employ an estimated 5 million people throughout the United Kingdom. But company top brass do not believe that Britain would benefit from a hasty referendum. In fact, even Longworth believes that BCC members do not want the UK to break from the European Union. The UK Deputy Prime Minister, Nick Clegg echoed similar sentiments and dismissed talk of a breakaway from Europe as highly destabilizing to the UK. In fact throughout British political circles, there seems to be very little dissent on the issue. The Polish ambassador – Witold Sobkow – expressed his hope that the UK would remain an active member of the European Union. He cautioned that a hasty British exit would spell disaster for business and the EU at large.
Why the Hullabaloo in Britain?
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The uncertainty in Europe is causing many in Britain’s corporate sector to be concerned. The Eurozone is facing increasing pressure with dismal employment figures, stagnant growth, historically low inflation and increasing currency weakness. With fears mounting that Greece under its newly-elected Syriza party will break from the currency union, there are very real concerns. As a result of these fears, British businesses are delaying big investment decisions as they relate to Europe. BCC members do not believe that a quick referendum will put the business community’s mind at ease. What British business is looking for is meaningful change from Europe, and that takes considerable time and effort. Britain cannot leave the EU because it needs the export revenue.
Yay or Nay for British Participation in the EU?
There are arguments in favor of breaking from the EU, including the fact that the EU is proving to be a drain on the British economy. Many in the UK do not want important policy decisions to be determined by foreign governments. Another hotbed issue is immigration: Britain is quickly tiring of the burden placed on it by foreign immigrants flocking to its shores. And when European countries like Italy, Spain, Greece, and Portugal start falling on hard times, many in the UK do not want Westminster to foot the bill. There is also the issue of national pride in the UK. Assimilation to European norms and standards in respect of the European currency is simply a nonstarter with UK citizens.
In spite of the fact that 28 countries comprise the EU, a single country cannot object to legislation that is introduced. This means that Britain has to accept whatever the EU dishes out. The flipside of the coin is that breaking from the EU is a big decision and could have disastrous economic consequences for bilateral trade. Furthermore, the EU is a free-market region and this benefits the UK. Supporters of the status quo argue that the EU does not routinely legislate on small issues and offers greater autonomy than opponents would like to believe. In spite of all the hype, there is far more at stake for Britain if it leaves the European Union than the benefits to be gained by weathering the current storms. There are real issues causing these divisions, but negotiation and not secession will most likely solve them.[/fusion_builder_column][/fusion_builder_row][/fusion_builder_container]