TEPSA members’ contributions to the debate on the British referendum

On 23 June, the British citizens will be asked to decide whether or not they want their country to stay in the European Union.

After unsuccessfully applying in 1961 and 1967, the United Kingdom joined the EU in 1973. UK’s membership was already put to a referendum in 1975, when 67 % of the population voted in favour of joining the Union.

Since then, the United Kingdom has always been a sui generis member of the EU, negotiating a number of opt outs from EU legislation and treaties. Such opt outs include: the Economic and Monetary Union (EMU), single pieces of legislation relating to Justice and Home Affairs, the Schengen Agreement on the free movement of people, the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the EU, and the Fiscal Compact.

On 23 January 2013, the British Prime Minister David Cameron promised the UK citizens that a referendum on the British membership in the European Union would be held before 2017. This opportunity was offered by the Lisbon Treaty of 2009, which for the first time envisaged the possibility of a Member State withdrawing from the Union (art. 50 TEU).

On 18-19 February 2016, following a letter by David Cameron to the European Council President Donald Tusk of 10 November 2015, the Heads of State and Government of the EU agreed on a European Council Decision ‘Concerning a new settlement for the United Kingdom within the European Union’.

The referendum is scheduled to take place on 23 June 2016.

In the last few months, TEPSA member institutes have extensively analysed the issue of the UK membership and of the upcoming British referendum with a view to providing a valid contribution to the debate on the so-called ‘Brexit’. You can find below an overview of some relevant publications.

Christine Nissen, The awkward squad: why keeping Britain ‘in’ is essential for Danish foreign policy, Danish Institute for International Studies (DIIS), February 2016

In a new commentary for European Council on Foreign Relations, Christine Nissen discusses the consequences for Denmark if the UK is no longer an EU member. More than ever, Denmark needs the UK as its awkward partner in the EU. Like the UK, Denmark has a qualified engagement with the EU with its four opt-outs and its euro-sceptic public. The two countries share many of the same foreign policy interests and the weight of the UK in the EU system promoting these interests is crucial for “baby-brother” Denmark.

The paper can be accessed here.

Tim Oliver, Why the EU Referendum Will Not be the End of the Story, Federal Trust for Research and Education, February 2016

The forthcoming referendum on the United Kingdom’s continued membership of the European Union will do little to change the UK’s uncertain and unhappy relationship with the Union. It will not settle what David Cameron called ‘the European Question in British politics.’ The issue of Europe in British politics is too multifaceted and shaped by factors that a referendum alone can do little or nothing fundamentally to change. As this pamphlet argues, the referendum is seen too much as an end in itself, rather than one of the means to the end of better managing the issue of Europe in British politics. There is no right question that the issue can be reduced to that can be answered in a way that will resolve it. Therefore whether the result is to remain or leave the EU, the European question will continue to cause tensions for the UK’s party politics, constitutional debates, changing identities, political economy and place within a changing Europe and wider world. It will therefore fail to secure adequate public consent for any new UK-EU relationship, will not end Euroscepticism, or stop the pull of the EU and the tensions this provokes in the UK. Whether in 2016 the British people vote to remain or leave the EU, further referendums on UK-European relations are inevitable.

The paper can be downloaded here.

Finnish Institute of International Affairs (FIIA), Puolustusliitto vai yhteistyötä Ruotsin kanssa?, June 2016

What are the EU’s and Britain’s challenges if the British vote for staying in the EU? Teija Tiilikainen and Louis Clerc discussing in Yle Ykkösaamu with Olli Seuri.

The resource (in Finnish) can be accessed here.

Juha Johela (FIIA), Varmaa on vain kaaos – Britannian EU-kansanäänestystä pidettiin HSTV:n keskustelussa hirvittävänä virheenä, June 2016

After Thursday, the only thing certain is chaos. In spite of the outcome. Juha Jokela discussing the UK’s EU referendum in Helsingin Sanomat HSTV.

The resource can be accessed here.

Finnish Institute of International Affairs (FIIA), The EU after the UK Referendum, June 2016

Audio and report from FIIA Seminar “The EU after the UK Referendum”. Implications of Brexit and Bremain by IanBond, Nicolai von Ondarza and Jukka Snell.

The audio and the report are available here.

Tony Brown, Brexit: Remain – The new reality?, Institute of International and European Affairs (IIEA), June 2016

In the ongoing debate on the EU Referendum, attention has been largely devoted to the prospect of the United Kingdom leaving the European Union and to the complex implications of such a development. Less time has been given to discussion of the other potential outcome – a decision to ‘Remain’ in the EU. Such a choice by UK voters does not represent a return to the status quo. The European Council Decision of 18/19 February 2016 ‘Concerning a New Settlement for the United Kingdom within the European Union’, while widely dismissed as insignificant, contains a number of provisions of potential importance – for the UK, for the European Union as a whole and, in specific matters, for Ireland. This paper seeks to explain the relevant elements of the European Council Decision, to explore some of the practical issues arising in its implementation, and to discuss the long term implications for British membership of the EU.

The paper can be downloaded here.

Institute of International and European Affairs (IIEA), Infographic – Forecast for the morning after Brexit, June 2016

This infographic, inspired by Brendan Halligan’s speech at the recent IIEA Brexit conference, illustrates five possible scenarios for the negotiating environment between the UK and the EU in the event of a Brexit, which challenge Mr. Grayling’s comments.

The article can be accessed here.

Tony Brown, Brexit: Northern Ireland Affairs Committee Report, Institute of International and European Affairs (IIEA), June 2016

On 26 May, 2016, the House of Commons Northern Ireland Committee published its extensive report on Northern Ireland and the EU referendum.

The Committee’s remit is to examine the work of the Northern Ireland Office and matters within the responsibilities of the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland. It has thirteen members (5 Conservative; 3 Labour; 2 DUP; I SDLP; 1 UUP; 1 Independent), and is chaired by the Conservative MP, Laurence Robertson. Among the Committee members are the Vote Leave leader, Labour’s Kate Hoey; the former SDLP leader, Alasdair McDonnell; Ian Paisley Jnr and the Independent MP, Lady Hermon. The Committee is divided on the referendum question, with seven backing Leave and six on the Remain side.

The article can be accessed here.

Institute of International and European Affairs (IIEA), Brexit Brief Issue 07, June 2016

Brexit Brief, published by the IIEA’s UK Project Group, covers developments in the on-going debate in the United Kingdom – and between the UK and the other EU Member States – on the UK’s negotiations over its membership of the Union.

The Brief seeks to provide up-to-date information on the progress and content of the UK re-negotiation and on relevant statements and policy positions – of key individual players, EU institutions, national governments, political parties, business interests and civil society actors.

The Brief is part of a wider communications programme covering the work of the IIEA’s UK Project Group – involving commentaries, speeches, texts and event reports, which will be highlighted on the Institute website.

The brief can be downloaded here.

Gavin Barrett, Brexit: What happens next?, Institute of International and European Affairs (IIEA), May 2016

Article 50, introduced into the Treaty on European Union by the Treaty of Lisbon, sets out a mechanism for a state which wishes to end its membership of a supposedly ‘ever closer Union’. The purpose of this contribution is to make some brief observations about the role of this article in any process of Brexit which may take place in the wake of a vote to leave the European Union on 23 June next.

The paper can be downloaded here.

Tony Brown, What’s in a phrase? The United Kingdom and Ever Closer Union, Institute of International and European Affairs (IIEA), March 2016

In recent times, the phrase “ever closer union” has become a pivotal part of the British Eurosceptic argument against the UK’s continued membership of the European Union. The sentiment was even reflected in David Cameron’s EU reform agenda, in which he asked for Britain’s obligation to work towards an ever closer union to be ended, and to do this in a “formal, legally-binding and irreversible way.”

But the phrase, as expressed in the Treaties, is by its nature ambiguous and open to interpretation: for some, it is critical to an understanding of the nature of European integration; for others, little more than a ‘straw man’. In this new paper, IIEA Senior Fellow, Tony Brown, examines the origins and development of “ever closer union”, from the post-war period to the present day.

The paper can be downloaded here.

Paul Gallagher, Brexit: Legally Effective Alternatives, Institute of International and European Affairs (IIEA), January 2016

In his recent speeches, the British Prime Minister, David Cameron, has softened his stance on the need for Treaty change to accommodate his renegotiation of the terms of British membership of the European Union. Nonetheless, there is no doubt that the demands set out in Mr. Cameron’s 10 November 2015 letter to President of the European Council, Donald Tusk, will still present considerable legal problems if they are to be accommodated.

This new IIEA paper by Paul Gallagher, S.C., former Attorney General of Ireland, presents a comprehensive examination of the feasibility in legal terms of the British demands. Mr. Gallagher argues that legal structures already exist which can provide the necessary legal means to address the British demands – if the necessary political agreement can be obtained.

The paper can be downloaded here.

Institute of International and European Affairs (IIEA), Britain and Europe: The Endgame – A Postscript, January 2016

In March 2015, the IIEA published Britain and Europe: The Endgame – An Irish Perspective.  The study represented a comprehensive analysis of the possible impact of different levels of engagement or disengagement between the UK and the EU on Ireland, North and South.

This new collection of five essays, with an executive summary by Brendan Keenan, forms a Postscript to Britain and Europe: The Endgame. The publication analyses the key changes in the political landscape since March 2015:  the outcome of the UK election in May 2015; Prime Minister Cameron’s letter to EU President Tusk setting out the four key British demands in a negotiation on EU reform; and the growing importance of security as part of European politics resulting from the refugee and migration crisis and the Paris attacks.

The authors conclude that changing attitudes in the European Council may facilitate an amicable solution with in the European Council on the UK’s reform agenda, if not at the 18-19 February Council then later in 2016. Nonetheless, Mr. Cameron will still have a referendum to win – and the outcome of that latter negotiation, as well as its implications for Ireland and British-Irish relations, remains uncertain.

The paper can be downloaded here.

Ettore Greco, Cameron verso una vittoria di Pirro?, Istituto Affari Internazionali (IAI), June 2016

The article (in Italian), can be accessed here.

Marco Gestri, UE-UK: che relazione dopo l’eventuale divorzio, Istituto Affari Internazionali (IAI), June 2016

The article (in Italian), can be accessed here.

Gian Luigi Tosato, Accordo Uk-Ue a prova di divorzio, Istituto Affari Internazionali (IAI), June 2016

The article (in Italian), can be accessed here.

Roberto Nigido, Se Londra divorzia dall’Ue, poco male, Istituto Affari Internazionali (IAI), June 2016

The article (in Italian), can be accessed here.

Ettore Greco, L’accordo sui nuovi rapporti fra Regno Unito ed Unione europea. Contenuto ed implicazioni, Istituto Affari Internazionali (IAI), April 2016

The paper (in Italian) can be dowloaded here.

Funda Tekin, Brexit or No Brexit? Political and Institutional Implications of an EU without the UK, Istituto Affari Internazionali (IAI), March 2016

The United Kingdom will vote on its fate within the European Union on 23 June 2016. Currently, there is still time to influence the outcome of this referendum – both from the UK and the EU side. The effects of a Brexit need to be closely assessed and communicated. This paper sets out to analyse the implications of different scenarios for Britain’s European future both in institutional and political terms. The main argument is that one way or the other the UK will be inclined to give up on its full membership, and then the EU will have to find the best possible ways to accommodate. Against this backdrop, this paper discusses the implications of differentiated integration, the UK’s role within the EU, British demands for renegotiating its EU membership, and the costs of keeping the UK within the EU or letting it go. The paper recommends agreeing on as much compromise as possible within the existing treaty framework. A Brexit cannot and will not solve current pressing problems of European integration.

The paper can be downloaded here.

Adriaan Schout, The EU must reform, with or without the British, Netherlands Institute of International Relations “Clingendael”, June 2016

Why is it that so many Britons (and others) want to leave the EU? Because the EU has changed. The British are holding up a mirror to us. The tale of the economic benefits is no longer enough to substantiate ever greater integration.

The article can be accessed here.

Jan Rood, Brexit: the beginning of the end of the EU?, Netherlands Institute of International Relations “Clingendael”, May 2016

Should the United Kingdom remain a member of the European Union or leave? That is the question on which the British people will have their say in a referendum on 23 June. If a majority vote to leave the EU – the famous Brexit –, that will end more than 40 years of British EU membership. There is wide disagreement on the consequences of such a move. Brexit backers see a bright future in which the United Kingdom, freed from the yoke of Brussels, will regain its sovereignty and economic vitality. The Remain camp believes an exit will lead to economic disaster, the breakup of the UK and even instability on the continent of Europe.

The article can be accessed here.

Adriaan Schout, British membership is warmly supported but not much liked, Netherlands Institute of International Relations “Clingendael”, May 2016

As we know fully well in the Netherlands, referenda are divisive events, nationally and internationally. To deal with their impact, European member states need ample political and diplomatic skills to ensure good relations in the EU. This is essential both in the run up to a referendum as well as afterwards when priorities shift to re-defining relations (e.g. in case of a British ‘leave’) or to deepening commitments (e.g. in case of a ‘remain’). This begs an important question: does the UK have these diplomatic skills? The Dutch-British relationship casts some doubts as to how the UK manages its EU relations.

The article can be accessed here.

Adriaan Schout, Don’t tell the British the consequences of Brexit (now), Netherlands Institute of International Relations “Clingendael”, May 2016

If the British leave the EU after their referendum on 23 June, it will no longer be business as usual. EU leaders have signalled that if European integration is rejected, the British cannot count on continued smooth economic cooperation with the EU.

The article can be accessed here.

Peter van Ham, Brexit: Strategic consequences for Europe. A scenario study, Netherlands Institute of International Relations “Clingendael”, May 2016

This report by Peter van Ham examines Brexit’s strategic consequences for Europe, and the EU’s Common Security and Defence Policy in particular.

The paper can be downloaded here.


Real Instituto Elcano, Dossier sobre Brexit/Bremain, May 2016

This dossier gathers the latest analyses of Elcano’s researchers on the issue of Brexit. The analyses include:

Araceli Mangas Martín , “Los dilemas del Reino Unido y de la UE: ¿salir o cambiar la Unión?”
Carmen González Enríquez , “Los inmigrantes y el Brexit: una mirada optimista”
Federico Steinberg y Alfredo Arahuetes, “‘Brexit’ tiene una débil justificación económica”
Miguel Otero Iglesias, “Mirando el ‘Brexit’ desde la City: una historia de dinero y poder”
Ignacio Molina, “¿Y si gana el ‘Brexit’?”
Manuel Gracia, “¿Qué fue del Imperio británico? Reino Unido en la globalización”
Salvador Llaudes, “España y el ‘Brexit’”
Robin Niblett, “Britain, the EU and the Sovereignty Myth”
Xenia Wickett, “Brexit Would Be a Further Blow to the Special Relationship”

The full dossier (in Spanish) can be dowloaded here.

Andrés Ortega, Brexit: possible political disasters, Real Instituto Elcano, March 2016

It is commonplace to talk more about the economic impact, but a British exit from the EU (so-called Brexit) could lead to a variety of political disasters.

The article can be accessed here.

Alfredo Arahuetes and Federico Steinberg, The interdependence of the British economy: a contribution to the Brexit debate, Real Instituto Elcano, March 2016

This paper analyses the interdependence of the British economy, both in terms of trade and direct investment, in order to assess the economic justification of a hypothetical Brexit. It concludes that it is difficult to justify the UK’s leaving the EU on the basis of economic arguments. The British economy has extremely close economic ties with the other countries in the EU, which would be jeopardised if Brexit were to go ahead.

The article can be accessed here.

Andrés Ortega, European prose for David Cameron: not much changes, Real Instituto Elcano, February 2016

David Cameron emerged with his spoils. But also to some extent did we. He secured a special status in the EU. But he already had that, and things have scarcely changed. In the final analysis, like Monsieur Jourdain, he has done nothing but talk in European prose, although the British leader, unlike the character in Molière’s Le Bourgeois Gentilhomme, is aware of doing so even though he will not admit to it. The same applies to the European Council, despite the long and fraught negotiations, which sought to ensure that the EU does not start unravelling on this issue (although it is unravelling elsewhere).

The article can be accessed here.