A referendum on Britain’s EU membership is a sure fire way to encourage the breakup of the UK

von Jo Eric Khushal Murkens

A referendum on European Union membership has been a longstanding demand from the Eurosceptic/phobic wing of UK politics. They regard the plebiscite and the prospect of withdrawal as a rejuvenation of national sovereignty and democracy. Over the past few years David Cameron has acceded to the demands by promising a referendum on EU membership in 2017. The three main obstacles he needs to overcome before then are concluding negotiations on reforming the European Union, or changing the UK’s current terms and conditions of EU membership – and, of course, the small matter of winning the May 2015 general election for the Conservatives with an overall majority.

The idea of a referendum opens up a space for discussing the principle of UK membership as well as the details of EU policy, institutional reform, and possible alternatives. This short piece is a comment on the UK’s continued failure to contribute to the EU’s political goals as well as on its failure to understand the EU’s relevance for the integrity of the United Kingdom.

Europe’s political dimension

The constitutionally defined goals of the European Union pitch it as both a political project of lasting peace, co-operation, and prosperity as well as a free trade area with a market and a currency. As a relative latecomer to the European Economic Community, as it then was, it is not surprising that UK politicians in general focus on the economy. What is surprising is that even British pro-European politicians today continue to understand the EU only in economic terms of a cost-benefit analysis for trade. Reducing the relationship to numbers alone, be it the UK’s contribution to the EU’s budget or the value of the EU to UK exports, does not even begin to reveal the entire scope of European ambition and aptitude ...

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