Event report: “Brexit” or “Bremain” – the Referendum and Beyond

The Central Library attended an event at the European Policy Centre (EPC) entitled ‘“Brexit” or “Bremain” – the Referendum and Beyond’. The speakers included:

  • Professor Anand Menon (King’s College London)
  • Professor John Curtice (Strathclyde University)
  • Professor Hussein Kassim (University of East Anglia)
  • Dr Sara Hagemann (London School of Economics)

The discussion was moderated by Mr Janis Emmanouilidis, Director of Studies at the EPC.

According to Professor Menon, several articles and blog posts arguing that it would be better for the EU if the UK left are nonsense. He said that these voices base their assumptions on three claims, which in his eyes are quite dubious:

  1. That the UK is a ‘unique, badly-behaved member’ of the EU club;
  2. That ‘brexit’ might be painless and won’t influence positively eurosceptics’ campaigns in other countries;
  3. That if Britain left, everybody else would proceed to implement the problematic policies.

Professor Menon shared an overview of the British political scene, which has lately become and will continue, at least until the 23 June referendum, to be obsessed with the ‘brexit/bremain’ question. He elaborated on the state of profound division among the Tories. On the other hand, it might be dangerous for the Labour party to promote EU integration, since this could result in their losing votes. According to Menon, attitudes are such that we can expect a second referendum if the result of the first is to remain in the EU.

Professor Curtice presented a study of overall distribution of British citizens’ attitudes towards the UK in the EU, trying to pinpoint what underlies these sentiments. According to the results, there is correlation between age and level of education and voting for or against Britain remaining an EU Member State. Generally the older and less educated would always be more prone to vote ‘no’, whilst the younger generations are still largely in favour of staying in. The telephone and online survey reveals that the European Council on 17-18 February did not have any significant impact on attitudes. The polls also revealed that the level of Euroscepticism in the UK has never been higher.

12810435_10205858405563886_1804554720_oContinuing on this topic, Professor Kassim showed several slides with quotes from Eurosceptic politicians. These illustrated how emotional the issue is, and how, even if it was previously not the case, politicians now seem to be playing on this aspect. Emotional arguments are more influential in times of crisis and are also prevalent where sovereignty is concerned. According to Dr Hagemann, this is an important factor in negative British attitudes. In fact the issue of British sovereignty being diminished by the influence of the EU legislation is one of the main themes in the public debate. This remains true despite the EU’s emphasis on the subsidiarity principle and the confirmation that ‘national security remains the sole responsibility of each Member State’. The British have a perceived lack of democratic influence, and feel that they are largely outvoted in Brussels. According to Dr Hagemann, regardless of the outcome of the referendum, the British Parliament will soon undergo some reforms.

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To read more on the aforementioned issue browse our Library Resources here.

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