Westminster and the European Union: Ever-Increasing Scepticism?
Reluctant to participate in the European project at the outset, the United Kingdom finally joined the European Community — or ‘Common Market’ as it was colloquially known — on 1 January 1973 in the first wave of enlargement. By now a well-established member of the European Union (EU), the United Kingdom has long been seen as ‘an awkward partner’, having tried to renegotiate its terms of membership almost as soon as it acceded and holding a referendum on whether to remain a member as early as 1975 (George, 1998). Four decades later the United Kingdom’s position in the EU was far from secure as the country faced the prospect of an ‘in/out’ referendum if the Conservatives were returned to office in 2015. Coming late to the European party has always both reflected and affected the way that British political parties have treated ‘Europe’. Scepticism and division have long characterized the major parties’ attitudes towards and relationships with both the EU and political parties at the EU level. This situation has both reflected and shaped public opinion, which was traditionally rather more Eurosceptic than in older member states; over the years, however, the United Kingdom has seen its scepticism matched by some newcomers for whom, as for the United Kingdom, the rules of engagement are difficult to accept. Yet, the arrival of states with more similar attitudes to integration did little to make the United Kingdom more pro-EU; quite the reverse in fact.
KeywordsEuropean Union European Parliament National Parliament European Union Level Lisbon Treaty
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