The Rocky Marriage
On the morning of January 1st 1973 the United Kingdom entered holy matrimony with the EEC (European Economic Community). It was a lovely affair, her leader Harold Wilson was so happy that the occasion had finally occurred after over 20 years of its existence. He was happy that his country could be part of the peaceful community and the gathering of many of the countries that were once at war with each other.
On the 6th January 2013, a Daily Mail poll showed a 7% increase for UKIP, a party calling for the separation from the 30-year marriage and a referendum. This increase has left the Lib Dems trailing in fourth place. So what happened to this once perfect and rosy marriage and where do we go from here?
This all stems from two facts about our relationship with the continent. The first fact is we are not a member of the Eurozone, a gathering of all different economies under the same name, where all financial decisions are taken altogether which brings me onto the second fact, our currency is not the Euro. These two facts, which have been under dispute, many times throughout the 30 years of our relationship with European Union has made it a rocky relationship. In fact Harold Wilson’s Labour party at the time was split on the EEC and were ready at many points during his premiership to leave it. However with 67% of the public voting to be in the EEC during that time it was something that the electorate actually wanted, so the relationship didn’t start off well politically but the voters of the United Kingdom were all for it.
The next political leader to really show their defiance against the community and show the difference of opinion a decade later was Margaret Thatcher. She was one of the few Prime Minister’s to change Britain since the Second World War and in the area of the EEC she was ready and geared up to change the relationship that we had. She fought long and hard and as told in Andrew Marr’s book ‘A History of Modern Britain’, she left much of the European leaders bored and fed up at a banquet where she kept on at them about the deal she wanted, leaving leaders pretending to be asleep and talking amongst themselves. In her own memoirs “The Downing Street Years’ she set out her plan to reimburse her taxpayers the £1bn that they had lost giving to the EEC, justifying this saying that the UK was the biggest contributors to the community but didn’t receive much in return. A deal was reached and she got just under £1bn that she asked for. Obviously she was the hard nut to crack and would not be let down.
Another decade later and the rocky relationship really started to show cracks for everyone to see. In 1992 the UK was ejected from the ERM (European Exchange Rate Mechanism). On 16th September 1992 stocks started to tumble after a summer of volatility in the currency exchange, where the increase for the US dollar on the exchange started to create a weak sterling. As this took place the Bank of England bought sterling at a rate of £2bn an hour, by 4pm the buy off was suspended and we lost our ERM membership, much to the dismay of the Major government. It damaged the Conservatives and the UK’s reputation and really saw some more icy relations with the continent, once again.
As we came to the millennium New Labour didn’t have a smooth ride either. A British beef ban in 1999 came round due to Mad Cow Disease and British chocolate was finally allowed to be sold after 30 years of dispute, as Gordon Brown came to his premiership he missed a televised signing of Lisbon Treaty handing more power to Brussels which once again created more tension in the marriage. During this time, in 1993, the United Kingdom Independence Party was formed, with the sole purpose of being separated from the EU.
So all in all a very rocky relationship that really has come to this point in our politics, the small party formed in 1993 getting 17% in a poll, more than the Liberal Democrats. As we have an increase in public views towards the EU becoming more and more skeptic we have seen the Conservatives become more and more defiant against the other partner in this marriage. In October of 2011 David Cameron vetoed a EU budget, in a very similar action to his previous Tory PM, Mrs. Thatcher, feeling that the money asked was too much. He talked about how there should be two EU budgets, one for countries who don’t have the Euro currency and ones that do. We see parallels with Thatcher and her defiance against the community with Cameron’s.
So where do we go from here. Where does the marriage that has always been on the rocks, maybe because it is long distance, a sea between us and the continent, where should it go? Divorce? Trialed separation? Counseling? or carry on as usual. I’m sure many politicians would like the latter, but many of the electorate would like a change. A change where our politicians claw back the powers that Brussels took away.
The sensible answer is there should be a change, but not a divorce. This relationship is important for our interests as well as the outside countries. With America, and Europe telling the UK to not have a referendum. Why? Well with so much volatility in this region economically, to move away and to take away money that we receive from the EU would be stupid and the worst of timing. The top countries that we export to are Germany, US, Netherlands, France, Ireland and Belgium, par from one, all are within the EU. Our top imports are Germany, China, Netherlands, US, France and Norway, are you starting to see a pattern. We have a relationship that needs to stay, that are important to us and if we take away we lose a lot more to our economy than we think. Simply becoming separated from the EU will mean costing more to businesses to import and export, with tariffs and other charges. We may lose more than we gain. That is why when a referendum comes around I will vote to stay until economic stability has taken place. To change a vital part to our economy at a strange and uncertain time would bring unknown problems that we as a nation are not ready to face.