Various campaigns to prepare Britons to decide whether to stay in or outside the European Union were launched this week. The non-party affiliated (Get Britain) OUT campaign has two subsets, VoteLeave and Leave.EU. Those in favour of Europe are united under the StrongerInEurope campaign.
The Conservative Party conference drew a massive crowd because of increasing anger against EU authorities in Brussels.
Presently, VoteLeave has the higher profile, backed by millionaire donors and MPs from across the political spectrum and supported by groups like Business for Britain, Labour Leave and Conservatives for Britain led by Lord Lawson, ex-Chancellor. MEP Daniel Hannan, MPs Owen Patterson, Dr Liam Fox and Zac Goldsmith have publicly declared their support for this campaign. The message centres around Britain as a decentralised and participatory democracy, regaining control over vital British policies such as trade (withdrawing from the EU’s political structures while still retaining trade links), tax, economic regulation and energy. Michael Gove and Boris Johnson want David Cameron to negotiate a new UK-EU deal based on free trade with friendly cooperation and to end the supremacy of EU law, regaining Britain’s seat on the World Trade Organisation and making UK a more influential international force. Many are frustrated at the lack of detail in shaping up these reforms, few expect the renegotiations to be meaningful enough to fundamentally alter the IN or OUT option.
Their point is that in 1973, when Britain joined the EEC, the UK economy was on its knees and the spectre of a prolonged three-day working week was unthinkable. The EEC offered opportunities for manufacturing and export. Now that the Commonwealth GDP is set to overtake the EU GDP, the UK does not want to be trapped in a diminishing trading zone, subservient to protectionist decisions made by profligate, non-elected bureaucrats. There is an irony that Britain is not allowed to trade freely with other English speaking countries. Repeated references to the success of the smaller democracies of Norway, Switzerland and Iceland are gaining traction.
On Thursday, Lord Blackwell, chairman of Lloyds Banking Group, added the banking sector’s weight to Brexit saying the current treaty arrangements were unsustainable. Kate Hoey, Labour MP, told the BBC
that there was support gathering among trade unions for UK to leave the EU. The Scottish National Party leader, Nicola Sturgeon, is determined a vote to Brexit will lead to a new vote for Scottish independence which she expects to win.
Leave.EU campaign claims that in 1975 the British public voted for a free-trade deal with Europe, not a “United States of Europe”. Nigel Farage, UKIP leader, supports every attempt to Brexit. Presently, the UKIP’s campaign group has about 200,000 followers. When the Electoral Commission decides on which one of the two groups for OUT will prevail, it is expected that VoteLeave will be amalgamated into Leave.EU.
The StrongerInEurope campaign is fronted by Lord Stuart Rose, Conservative peer and former chairman of Marks and Spencer, supporters include three former Prime Ministers, John Major, Tony Blair, Gordon Brown, the former Chief of the General Staff Sir Peter Wall, West Ham United vice-chairwoman Baroness Brady and legendary businessman Richard Branson.
The campaign revolves around patriotism, strength in connectivity, goodwill, rights to benefits and being part of the biggest trading block in the world.
Economically half of everything Britain sells is to Europe and an average investment of £26.5 billion per year comes from Europe. The Confederation of British Industry estimates that 3 million jobs in Britain are linked to trade with the rest of Europe. Their argument is that negotiating as a part of a 500 million-strong economy gives UK more clout. Although this group wants some reform, they are committed to remain in the EU even if the reforms are inadequate. Fundamentally this means conceding to further integration and homogenous principles that would ultimately abandon British nationality and sovereignty.
A Conservative spokesperson said, “We were returned to office with a very clear mandate to improve Britain’s relationship with the rest of Europe and to reform the European Union…We want to see a new settlement: one that will make Europe a more competitive and dynamic continent to ensure it delivers prosperity and
security for all of the people within it, not just for those in Britain… This will give the British people the choice of membership of a reformed European Union in an in/out referendum by the end of 2017.”