Britain joined the European Community in 1973, under the leadership of Conservative Prime Minister, Edward Heath. It was created following the Second World War in an attempt to establish an ‘economic interdependency’, to avoid similar conflicts occurring again. The European Community was then renamed the European Union in 1993, as it began issuing political policies to member countries, transforming it into a political union. In recent times, there has been increasing question surrounding Britain’s membership in Europe, and whether or not it is widely beneficial, leading to promises of a referendum from Prime Minister, David Cameron. It is important to examine the wide variety of reasons for and against Britain's future position connected or separate from the EU, and take the time to make a decision based on a personal analysis.
Should Britain leave the EU, it would mean losing their influence over decision making, and there would be “no one to stand up for British interests when decisions are made that affect us”. A Norwegian Minister, Vidar Helgesen stated that "Britain being on the outside would obviously not have that amount of people on the inside. You would find it more difficult, as a result, to affect the regulations”. The European Union was originally implemented to encourage trade and interconnection between European countries, but should Britain leave, it would not have any influence on any potential changes to trade and investment law, leaving it potentially powerless in an area which is the recipient of “almost 50%” of its exports.
Possibly the most frequent issue surrounding Britain’s membership of the EU, is the issue of immigration, where opinion is divided. A report from University College London found that immigrants from the 10 countries that joined the EU in 2004 contributed £4.96bn more than they received in public services before 2011. It is also argued that there are financial benefits in the tourism industry, where Britain’s EU membership allows freedom for citizens of other EU member countries to travel to the UK, where they provide tourist trade. This also brings benefit to many different trades, where highly skilled individuals from other EU member countries come to live and work in the UK. Trained Doctors and engineers can often meet a lack of specialist British people in these areas. Unfortunately, when issues surrounding immigration are discussed, the complete picture is not always presented. It is clear from the evidence that where immigrants may benefit from Britain’s public services financially, the benefits that they provide at the same time appear to far outweigh this.
The EU currently contains 28 member countries, and it often becomes difficult for decisions to be made in such a large committee. Not one country in the EU has a veto during decision making, which means that legislation of which the UK does not agree, could still easily be passed if there is a general consensus. This could leave the UK powerless on important issues, such as the unification of the medical system, which would jeopardise the National Health Service. Many argue that the EU is “too great a body to legislate, and the power should be handed back to Westminster”.
In the past, many have accused the EU of “wasteful spending”, particularly in 2006 where an estimated “45% EU spending went towards the Common Agricultural Policy”. With Britain currently in an attempt to rebuild a secure and safe economy, financial independence could be something that is needed. Perhaps It could be the start of a prosperous period for Britain.
There is wide concern surrounding the effects that immigration has had on the British welfare system, with many condemning the strain that has been caused by an influx of immigrants. There is legislation in place that makes UK hospitals available for citizens from EU member countries, which is an increasing cost to UK tax payers year upon year. One of the biggest problems with the NHS as it stands, is the increased waiting times due to overcrowding. Many people feel that Britain simply does not have the capacity to cope with the current levels of immigration.
Another less prominent argument against immigration, and a potential reason to leave the EU, is the supposed loss of ‘National Identity’. Many British people suggest that while the country is focusing on making provision for other cultures, religions and beliefs, British culture itself is being overlooked. However, many people discount this argument, attributing the change in culture to a simple effect of globalization.
There are logical arguments on both sides of the debate, and to suggest that this discussion could have a simple "yes" or "no" answer would be unrealistic. The question remains whether or not Britain as part of the EU would be able to negotiate more beneficial terms of membership, as the risk of leaving the EU appears to be unquantifiable.