A majority of Conservative MPs in the British parliament remain undecided on a “Brexit”, according to a poll by think tank Open Europe.
David Cameron has pledged to support a campaign for Britain to remain in the EU, if he can get certain key reforms passed in Brussels. High on his agenda are restrictions on benefits for EU migrants, as well as cutting what he sees as the red tape of European legislation detrimental to businesses.
It’s been a rocky road, however, as any major changes in these areas require agreement from all members for such fundamental changes. Questions over Cameron’s ability to make any changes have led to many being sceptical of real EU reform before the 2017 “Brexit” referendum
Just 14 of Tory MPs claim they are “firmly in”, with 44 “in leaning” – an incredibly low figure for an issue that will be presented to the public in as soon as a year. There are slightly more Tory MPs leaning of favouring an exit from Europe.
On the other side of the spectrum, new Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn has been opaque on the issue of European Union membership – stating he supports the idea, but not giving any solid signs that he would support remaining in the EU.
Public opinion on the matter has varied considerably over the last few years, with a majority favouring a Brexit after the Great Recession – and last week, YouGov released a poll showing that a majority of respondents favoured remaining inside the European Union.
Also weighing in on the contentious issue, pro-Europe campaigners claim that Europe would impose strict conditions on the UK if a Brexit were to occur. These could include expensive trade tariffs, the reintroduction of visas for British nationals, and legislation that the UK has no say over.
Brexit won’t lead to a freer Britain
Anti-EU campaigners, including parties like UKIP, have long claimed that the UK would easily negotiate a free-trade agreement with the EU. This situation is already present with Norway, who is not a full EU member, but are part of the European Economic Area (EEA). This provides them with free trade, free movement of persons, goods and services.
A major argument against this is that Norway has to abide by European laws regarding product safety, financial transactions, and environmental considerations – the so called “red tape” of Europe – in order to export to the European Union, but as it is not a full member, it doesn’t have a say in the formation of this legislation. This is often referred to as “government by fax” as Norway has no choice in the matter.
The UK enjoys a unique status within the European Union because it has a large say over current and proposed legislation, and because it has the ability to opt-out of EU legislation. This can be seen in Britain’s borders (being outside of the Schengen area), not being bound to adopt the Euro, and looser restrictions on financial institutions. A Brexit would give the UK no say in rules and regulations that it will be bound to follow anyway, so a Brexit would likely weaken the British voice in Europe. The undecided MPs would do well to remember this.
Image credit: By Pava (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 it], via Wikimedia Commons