In light of the recent speech delivered by Prime Minister David Cameron, Britain’s economic growth is looking increasingly threatened by the actions and organization of the European Union. On October 24, the Prime Minister delivered a speech that shed light on the situation and also on what the United Kingdom’s response would be.
He first and foremost noted the great developments taking place in terms of both health and climate change, and continued to mention Britain’s “strong recovering economy” with a 3% yearly growth rate announced from their growth figures. What seemingly shocked the Prime Minister was the abrupt manner in which his country was billed £1.7 billion by the European Union. Although Cameron acknowledges that the amount countries pay depends on their respective economic productivity, he was alarmed by the short deadline given to them by the EU – December 1.
The nature of this speech poses many questions about the future of the UK’s membership in the EU. Looking back at the history of the EU, no member state has left the union since its founding in 1993. This fact, however, does not elucidate the complications between the United Kingdom and the organization of the European Union. Starting in 1975, the United Kingdom has witnessed numerous referendum campaigns against both the European Economic Committee and the European Union. In 2011, however, the Prime Minister stated that he would not hold another referendum because, according to his argument, the referendum held thirty-nine years ago still represented the views of the people. His decision also happened to come at a time of growing “euro-skepticism” in the UK.
If Prime Minister Cameron were to ever call for a referendum, the move would hardly be contested. Although many people in the UK would probably vote to leave the EU, foreign nationals and other prominent British figures would staunchly oppose the move. What would separation from the European Union truly mean for the United Kingdom? In more ways than one, the withdrawal could benefit but also hinder the growth of the United Kingdom. On the one hand, the BBC argues that small- and medium-sized firms would escape the burdens of EU rules and trade regulations, creating a jobs boom. On the other hand, many UK citizens work in industries closely linked to the EU, such as aerospace.
Aside from job security, some are concerned about what withdrawal would mean for restrictions on visas and for those working in EU countries. About 700,000 UK citizens were living in EU countries as of 2011, while 2.3 million citizens of other EU countries were living in the UK. Without the visa-free travel arrangements instituted by the EU, UK citizens working in other EU countries would face difficulties when moving across borders. Nevertheless, withdrawal from the EU would certainly aid the UK in its efforts to control immigration, which may help job security in the long run.
George Osborne, Chancellor of the Exchequer, has worked with the Prime Minister and the European Union in resolving the controversy surrounding the payment of £1.7 billion to the EU. One solution involves paying the bill in two installments in July and September of 2015. Although this solution will alleviate some short-term concerns, it will do little to fix the growing strain between the UK and the EU.