Should the UK’s EU membership be renegotiated?

11 April 2013

UK MEP Martin Callanan, chairman of the European Conservatives and Reformists Group in the European Parliament, warned that it would be a terrible mistake to dismiss the debate about the future of the UK in Europe as parochial or caused by a perceived lack of commitment by Britain to the European project.

He insisted that the issue was part of a wider debate about the future of Europe itself in a changing global environment.

Callanan argued that Europe is in the midst of multiple crises: it is becoming increasingly uncompetitive in the global marketplace, it is saddled with a currency union under enormous stress, and it is becoming more undemocratic with each new wave of desperate reform. Meanwhile, the legitimacy of the EU is in free-fall across the continent, he claimed, arguing that the EU is in serious and potentially existential trouble.

Callanan said that many people like himself are campaigning for reform of the EU not because they want it to fail, but because they ultimately want it to succeed. But they do not believe it will succeed if it continues down the path of ever-greater centralisation, he added.

The EU has essentially been a success since its creation – if it hadn’t been successful, then its membership wouldn’t have grown so dramatically and there wouldn’t be a queue to join, argued UK MEP Sir Graham Watson, president of the European Liberal Democrat and Reform (ELDR) Party.

He argued that the cement of the European Union around the bricks of NATO had given Europe a period of peace unprecedented in the continent’s history, and that the explosion of trade triggered by the creation of the Single Market had helped to raise living standards to levels that the previous generation could never have dreamt of.

The Liberal Democrat MEP argued that the major challenges we face are supranational in nature and that the EU gives us the best platform to deal with them, citing as examples rapid world population growth, migration, climate change, energy security, international organised crime and the globalisation of the economy.

If we’re going to deal with the challenges of competitiveness in this world, then we must deal with them together, by bringing our countries’ scientists together and by investing in trans-European transport, digital or renewable energy networks, and acting with the clout of 500 million people working together in the global economy to secure their future competitiveness and prosperity, Watson said.