Should Britain remain
in the European Union? That is the question. General elections have
been set for the June 7th, yet according to the opinion polls; Europe
is down on the voting agenda of the electorate. This is a shame. It
should be the top priority. The continuation of Britain as a member
will set the path for the future of this country.
There are many European topics at stake over the next few decades: Economics,
defence, sovereignty, taxation, legislation, to name but a few. These
are common problems facing all European states. Britain is not alone
to feel concerned on their effect on equivalent national issues. But
some have already been overcome. Let us take European currencies as
Some of us pay in deutchmarks, others in liras. Living in Spain, I happen
to use pesetas. Most of us, however, are looking forward to the introduction
of the euro as the future European currency. This will establish a common
base for financial transactions that will ease business as a whole.
So what is the great problem for Britain in discarding the pound? In
most of Europe, local currencies no longer play a part in national politics,
let alone as an argument in an election. The transfer over to the euro
will be an administrative matter as from 2002. The real question is:
does Britain wish to continue in Europe?
Britains future is in Europe. There is no doubt about it. But
it can only triumph and prosper if it becomes a full European partner.
It will never succeed as a sideline spectator. Most decisions taken
in Brussels, regardless of sector, affect everyday life in Britain.
These are not always favourable. But if Britain were to play centre
stage alongside France and Germany (greatly determined by being a member
of the Euro zone) it would exert a much stronger influence at European
level for the benefit of the British people.
Over the past fifty years, this country has gone through a dramatic
transformation. Setting aside most great changes that have affected
the world as a whole, Britain has also been influenced by the loss of
an Empire, an influx of massive immigration, and membership of the European
Common Market. The fourth significant impact has been that of the United
States of America. Americana has firmly set its roots in
the United Kingdom. All these issues have tugged at and torn down establishments
and traditions built over centuries. By doing so, they have cornered
the country into no man's land. The United Kingdom of Great
Britain as it enters the twenty first century is staring at a crossroad.
The routes are: go it alone, side with America, or join Europe. What
route should it be?
But before analysing a nation within a league of nations, that is, Britain
in Europe, it is worth taking a look at the present internal situation.
The national problems have hit rock bottom and need to be resolved.
Curiously enough, they are so serious and far-reaching that despite
party manifestos for the forthcoming elections, it makes no difference
which one takes over the leadership. Food (agriculture and farming),
the National Health Service (medical and pensions) Education, law and
order as well as Infrastructure (roads and railways) all need to be
dramatically overhauled. Most of todays ills in these areas stem
from decisions taken two decades or so ago. Some could be summed up
as privatisation (following in the USAs footsteps), and excessive
corporate freedom with disregard for basic social needs. Others as sheer
True; massive privatisation of the major industries such as railways
and telecommunications brought about innovation and consumer choice.
Citizens became shareholders earning and accumulating unprecedented
wealth. The economy apparently flourished as never before. Yet grassroots
such as ethics and morality were relegated to the past. Hire and fire,
survival of the fittest and, above all, making as much money as possible
were the new rules.
The mad cow (BSE) disease, followed by a devastating foot and mouth
epidemic, was indicative of a long lasting neglect of food protection
in lieu of supermarket profits. Cost cutting closed good hospitals whilst
aggressive objectives and incentives led to the general deterioration
of the medical service. Long hospital waiting lists, dissatisfaction
and lack of personnel dominated tabloid headlines. Gone were the days
of professional vocation. Profit margins curtailed investment in railway
infrastructure whilst dot-com fever lured brains away from traditional
professions such as teaching and nursing. Britain looked abroad for
skilled staff. On the other hand, over zealous protection of citizens
rights without a proper and adequately equipped police force allowed
rampant delinquency to take over everywhere. The recent death of a snatch
and run victim at Euston Station was a case in point.
So where does Europe fit into the equation of Britains present
national ills? The answer is it doesnt, because full membership
of the Union is long term. But it will definitely have a knock on effect.
The future world economic map over the next century will be dominated
by the USA, Japan and the European Union followed at some time by a
Chinese led Far East. Long lasting macro decision-making on international
issues will be dictated by agreements amongst these super powers. If
Britain is left out on a limb procrastinating and acting as a passive
co-ordinator for the rest of Europe it will eventually lose out. Within
a generation or two it may be relegated to underdeveloped status. There
should be no misapprehensions of becoming an international arbitrator
link between America and Europe - with special neutral status.
This will simply not happen!
As for America, make no illusions about Uncle Sam. The United States
of America looks after number one and only number one. Prosper and they
love you, decline and they will pass you over. Britain should not even
dream of acting as the big European partner. In the twenty-first century,
that thought should be discarded completely.
My own conviction, similar to Sir Edward Heath (who took Britain into
Europe in 1972), and hopefully many others is: go for Europe. Britain
was, is and always will be European. Our future generations will never
forgive an electorate that gives a blind eye to the most fundamental
issues that are facing this nation in 2001: restoring national social
standards yet within a strong European Union. This includes Britain
as a full member.
© James Skinner. 2001