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Why Britain should stay in the European Union

In the second of our posts focusing on the Conservative’s proposed European Union ‘In/Out’ referendum, key legal figures and political commentators share their views on why Britain should stay in the European Union. Once finished, why not read the previous post on Why Britain should leave the European Union and decide which side has the more convincing argument?

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What is best for Britain? That is the only question which both sides have been addressing in the “In/Out” debate in this country and to which they give different answers. Certainly that is a relevant question but it is not the only question which should be addressed. …  We should also ask “what is best for Europe as a whole and also what is best for the world?”

One of the great achievements of the UK over the centuries has been the universalising, in part by example [and] in part by means of the European Convention on Human Rights, of its generally admired conceptions of human rights. …  In consequence, the EU has these human rights as one of its foundation stones. … The steady increase of Member States of the EU and of candidate member states shows that many others value the EU and its commitment to human rights.

Systems of governance and substantive laws are not immutable and need changing from time to time. The UK should contribute in a positive fashion to these changes and to the continuing health of the EU.

–   Sir Konrad Schiemann, former Judge, Court of Justice of the European Union

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“One of the strongest reasons for staying in the EU is that quitting would be bad for our economy, as we would lose full access to the single market. Eurosceptics have tried to counter this argument by saying we could copy Norway, Switzerland, or Turkey. The snag is that none of these is a good model: Norway has access to the single market but has to follow its rules without a vote on them; Switzerland’s banks don’t enjoy access to the single market unless they relocate to places inside the EU like London; and Turkey doesn’t have access for services, which account for 80% of our economy.

“As Eurosceptics have come to realise the weaknesses of these models, they have employed a new argument: Britain is a special case. We are bigger than Norway and Switzerland, and richer than Turkey. We are, therefore, in a position to cut a better deal with the EU than any of them. Clout is important – and we certainly have more of it than Norway, Switzerland, or Turkey. But the problem with this argument is that the EU has more clout than us. Its economy would be six times our size.”

–   Hugo Dixon, Editor-at-large, Reuters News, and author of The In/Out Question: Why Britain should stay in the EU and fight to make it better.

European Union flag. Photo by Yanni Koutsomitis. CC BY-SA 2.0, via  YanniKouts on Flickr
European Union flag. Photo by Yanni Koutsomitis. CC BY-SA 2.0, via Flickr

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Before we run for the European exit we need to properly weigh up the alternatives. Those who want to do a ‘runner’ claim that the world is about to open their doors to our goods and services and that our influence will increase. I would love to see evidence of how easy it will be to swap our “disastrous” relationship with Europe for such a harmonious set of alliances with every other country around the world – as long as they are not European!

For my part I am greedy for the UK, not cautious – I want EU PLUS. I want the 500 million customers that the EU offers PLUS new trading partners and new export opportunities from across the globe.

We need have no identity crisis about our membership of Europe or feel that we are in any way diminished by sitting at the top table of the largest trading bloc in the world. We just have a lot of work ahead to help shape a new and ambitious Europe that shares our optimistic, confident, and outward-looking attitude and delivers true benefits to the British people.

Laura Sandys, MP for South Thanet and founder, European Mainstream

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I believe that all the most serious issues facing the world today are essentially international problems, and that none of these problems can be solved unless we continue to develop the international legal order at every possible level.

In my own field, one can refer to the problem of climate change or global warming, and the pressing need for more effective methods of control of greenhouse gas emissions. … Problems [such as these] are inherently transnational in nature, and all present insuperable challenges to individual national governments.

It is indisputable that in the European Union we have the single most advanced and successful example of an international legal order which has yet been established. … Unless we are ostentatiously to turn our backs on the world’s most serious problems, it is absolutely essential that we continue to participate in and to support this outstanding international development. Only in this way can the long-term interests of our country and our people be protected.

Stephen Hockman QC, 6 Pump Court Chambers

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It is unsurprising that the financial crisis should have brought back to the fore concerns about the very design of the EU’s institutional structure and issues of democracy deficit, on which there is already an extensive literature.

This is however matched by an equal dearth of literature concerning constitutional responsibility of Member States for the status quo. … It is noteworthy that the discourse concerning democracy deficit is normally presented as a critique of the EU. The EU is of course not blameless in this respect, but nor are the Member States, viewed collectively and individually. The present disposition of EU institutional power is the result of successive Treaties in which the principal players have been the Member States.

Member States bear responsibility for the choices that they have made, individually and collectively, in shaping EU decision-making. Thus insofar as there is a democratic deficit of the kind considered above responsibility cannot simply be ‘offloaded’ by the Member States to the EU. Member States cannot carp about deficiencies of EU decision-making as if they were unconnected with the architecture thus created.

–  Paul Craig, Professor of Law, University of Oxford, and author of The Lisbon Treaty, EU Law: Texts, Cases, and Materials, and EU Administrative Law.

“Europe today is under threat from all sides”

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Europe today is under threat from all sides. … To want to leave the European Union at such a time seems perverse. And to what end do the Europhobes – I use the word advisedly for we are all Eurosceptics to a degree – demand Britain’s exit? To wrest back national sovereignty from Brussels. Yet sovereignty is a chimera, a mirage, a will o’ the wisp. It is like a man lost in the desert: he has total control over what he does, complete freedom of action – yet he is powerless.

When he was European Commissioner, Leon Brittan said in 1989: “The concept of total sovereignty is, frankly, a dangerous delusion. Instead you have to ask on a pragmatic basis: how can I most effectively achieve what I want for my country? Sometimes the answer will be to take action at the national level. At other times it may be best to reach multilateral agreements. But there will be occasions when the right, long-term answer is to pool sovereignty with others, in order paradoxically, to achieve an objective which may be of paramount national (ital.) importance.” He was right then and his argument holds good today.

–   Sue Cameron, columnist, The Daily Telegraph

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Continued membership of the EU for Scotland (as part of the United Kingdom) remains a critical issue. Indeed, anecdotally at least, there appears to be the sort of broad consensus amongst Scottish businesses, the public sector, and civil society which has been so markedly absent from the Scottish independence debate. That consensus is firmly pro-European.

The real world considerations of a smaller economic entity such as Scotland, which is geographically remote from many of its key markets and exports proportionately more than its larger neighbour, revolve around reducing, not creating, barriers to trade.

Direct engagement with the EU operates alongside a dynamic relationship with Westminster which has seen almost annual alteration of the boundary between those areas reserved to London and those devolved to Edinburgh. … What becomes clear is not that the European Union is an unalloyed good, or that the Westminster Parliament is an unalloyed bad. The question is whether, in sum, membership of the European Union is a ‘good’ to be preserved despite its imperfections. I’ve no doubt it is.

–  Christine O’Neill, Chairman, Brodies LLP

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