The United Kingdom: A Fading Actor in European Affairs?

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Open Democracy’s Kirsty Hughes argues that the financial crisis with the euro has drawn into sharp focus the need for the United Kingdom to determine its future relationship with regard to the continent else it faces marginalization and impotency in future continental affairs. Kirsty Hughes bemoans U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron’s lack of real involvement in solving the financial crisis which could wreck the economies of the entire continent outside of the euro zone and she maligns the Tories for their seeming to revel in the U.K.’s marginal position within the organization even though over half of British exports go to the European Union. Britain is not a member of the euro zone, a point of fact proudly touted in the wake of the euro crisis. Further, the U.K. is not a party to the Schengen passport-free zone. In other words, the U.K. is somewhat proudly detached from many of the hallmarks of European integration. Kirsty Hughes argues that this dithering on the question of the European Union has resulted in the E.U. member states’ rejection of the U.K. and its lukewarm approach to integration, limiting the U.K.’s continental influence severely at a time of opportunity for real leadership. The U.K.’s lack of involvement in offering a solution to the euro zone crisis is not shocking given its lack of a coherent strategy in the past. What is telling, however, is the contributions of non-euro states like Sweden and Poland to the bailout while the U.K. languishes in a self-gratifying sense of told-you-so with regard to the euro, only further alienating it from its continental brethren. There are indications from the U.K.’s right that they desire to remain in the common market while exiting from the European Union, maintaining a status within the organization like Norway. Whatever the aims of the U.K.’s domestic political actors, it is apparent that the U.K. is at a crossroads in its relationship with the continental project – to move forward and perhaps be one of the ‘big three’ of the E.U., or delay and exit from the organization only to watch Britain’s continental influence wane while her economic dependency on the continent rises.


[Open Democracy]