UK Referendum On EU Membership: Why "Brexit" is Nonsensical and It Will Never Happen


The restless spirits of the UK's euroscepticism are on the run again. The British Prime Minister David Cameron called for a referendum on the UK's membership in the EU, which will, if his dreams fulfill, happen in 2017.

This announcement created a huge debate in the world, and especially in the EU and the UK itself, about the chances of Brexit, as Britain's exit from the Union is popularly called. However, if we take the closer look in this affair, the reasons why Britain should stay in the Union are numerous and by far overcome the contra arguments. Furthermore, because of these reasons Britain will stay in the EU and it is very likely that the referendum will not happen.

Firstly, it is important to acknowledge that the prime minister's move is intended to start a purely political game inside and outside the UK. Namely, Cameron most likely thought how he could use the situation of the euro crisis and generally poor economic state of the European Union in order to gain political points for him and his party. It is interesting to notice how the possible referendum is proposed for 2017, only if the Conservative Party wins the elections. Moreover, this move is supposed to help the Conservatives consolidate themselves around an issue that might make them victorious in the next elections. Some Conservative MPs have said that the EU has constantly degraded the role of the British Parliament, and that Britain is becoming an "e-mail democracy," with everything dictated from Brussels by e-mail.

Moreover, British internal political situation is more complex. Scotland has a scheduled referendum for independence in 2014, and it is widely known that Scotland is openly pro-EU. It can be logically assumed that if the UK wants to keep Scotland as its part it is only natural to follow the EU path and stay part of it — for the sake of staying a united country.

On the outside level, this political game only serves Cameron's wild idea of re-negotiating the treaties that govern the EU. Namely, Cameron wants to have Britain opted out of certain treaty provisions that he considers bad. However, under the treaty rules, it is only possible to opt out of the treaty at the time of its negotiations and before it is officially signed. It can be argued that Britain has been calling for new negotiations of the treaties and the whole talk about the referendum is only a card to blackmail the other members of the Union. But, this did not work as well as planned, as Cameron's announcement hit the wall of other European capitals, which were quick to say that re-negotiation is not an option and France and Germany warned the UK against pursuing an "a la carte" approach.

Another interesting piece of information that Cameron failed to share with the British public are the tremendous consequences that Brexit will have for the British economy. It is important to have in mind that historically, Britain expressed its desire to join the Union when it noticed that the Union was having rapid growth while Britain experienced a slowdown. The benefits that single market of the EU brings to the UK are humongous. In 2012 the UK's exports to the EU were £159 billion ($249 million), which is 53% of the total value of British exports. The Business Department estimates that trade in Europe is responsible for a 6% rise on income per capita since the early 1980s. Moreover, the single market guarantees freedom for British citizens to work in other EU member states. It also guarantees a 40-hour workweek, food security and many other citizen-oriented regulations made by the EU. On the other hand, it is true that Britain is one of the largest contributors to the EU budget, but a lot of those funds come back through different programs of the Union.

On the global level, the UK's main outside-EU-partner is the U.S. However, President Obama's reaction to Cameron's call for referendum was very sharp. Namely, he said that he values "a strong UK in a strong European Union" and the White House said on Wednesday it believed Britain's membership of the EU was mutually beneficial.

Lastly, patience with Britain is not unlimited. Britain may be seen as an important ally by economically liberal member-states in areas like the single market. But even these countries do not always see the UK as a reliable partner, and are unlikely to see Britain as an ally inside the EU — if they think that the country is heading for the exit. This is undoubtedly weakening Britain's influence, not just in Europe, but also in the capitals of the fast growing emerging powers. A visiting Indian diplomat recently noted that the "changes in Europe had left Germany as the big kid on the block" and was triggering a re-evaluation of the UK's ability to play its traditional role as an interlocutor and point of entry.

For all the above reasons Brexit seems nonsensical.