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About this book

Britain's relationship with the EU has always been riddled with doubt, scepticism and awkwardness. This much-needed new book examines why, how and with what effect the EU has become such a contentious issue in UK politics. It places the debate in historical context by starting with an overview of debates about membership in the 1950s and 1960s and then goes on to examine the impact of Britain's membership since 1973 across core policy areas, including economic and monetary union, agriculture, and foreign and security policy.

Andrew Geddes outlines major changes in the scope of the European project and assesses how central, devolved and local governments have responded to the EU. The book also assesses the EU's impact on domestic policies, assessing debates within and between the main parties and charting the rise of Euroscepticism as a key trend in contemporary British politics. Engagingly written, this text provides a comprehensive and up-to-date analysis both of the EU's impact on Britain and of Britain's contribution to the EU.

Table of Contents

0. Introduction

Abstract
The debate about Britain and the European Union (EU) is about the past, present and future of British politics, about Britain’s place in the world and about national self-understandings. This book specifies the profound effects of membership on British politics and addresses the fundamental debate about Britain’s place and future in the EU. The book is not intended as a technical manual detailing the mechanics of British relations with the EU; rather, it focuses on why, how and with what effects the EU has become one of the most contentious issues in contemporary British politics. It shows that the ‘choice for Europe’ made by British political leaders in the 1960s and 1970s was essentially defensive and that Britain has moved into an outer tier, or what could be called the EU’s ‘slow lane’. Britain is outside both the eurozone and the Schengen passport-free travel arrangements. There are also strong calls from Conservatives within the coalition government that came to power in 2010 for further repatriation of powers from the EU, or even exit. Few British political leaders have embraced ‘the European project’, while opposition to European integration has remained a powerful political undertow in British politics.
Andrew Geddes

Chapter 1. Britain on the Edge of Europe

Abstract
This chapter analyses a variety of factors that could help to explain British relations with the EU and the impacts of European integration on British domestic politics. These include Britain’s geographical position, and its distinct history and institutions that could contribute to positive or negative attitudes at governmental and public levels. It is, however, argued that geography, history and identity do have effects, but that these effects cannot be understood unless they are located in the context of the British political system; by which is meant not only institutions and processes, but also the ideas that inform and animate this system. Thus, we can hypothesize that, if the organization of the British political system is a key factor, then, in those areas that tally with domestic political preferences and institutional logics, there may well be British support for European integration because it can make the attainment of domestic political objectives more likely. Similarly, if EU objectives do not accord with British preferences, then reluctance or awkwardness could be anticipated.
Andrew Geddes

Chapter 2. Looking In from the Outside

Abstract
Britain’s relations with the EU until membership in 1973 can be related to the character of that organization (supranational and with lurking federal ideas) and to key developments in British domestic and foreign policy. The two went hand-in-hand as Britain stood aside from the first steps taken towards European integration in the 1950s, then re-evaluated its role and sought membership of the EC in the 1960s and 1970s. The chapter develops the ‘Britain in Europe’ theme by providing an overview of Britain’s relationships with the EC from the postwar leader of a landslide Labour government, Clement Attlee, until accession under Prime Minister Edward Heath in 1973. The chapter is particularly concerned with the factors that shaped British government attitudes towards supranational integration, the capacity to attain UK European policy objectives, and the ways in which these preferences and objectives changed over time between the late 1940s and the early 1970s. In the 1950s, the development of European integration is assessed alongside Britain’s long-standing preferences for free trade and the maintenance of economic relations with the Commonwealth and USA, an aversion to supranationalism, and a desire to recover great power status.
Andrew Geddes

Chapter 3. Full-Hearted Consent? Britain in Europe from Heath to Major

Abstract
This chapter analyses British relations with the EU between 1973 and 1997. Chapter 2 showed how the powerful legacy of postwar events combined with economic and political factors to explain the construction of Europe as a social and political issue in Britain. This chapter takes these analytical strands forward by exploring British relations with the EC/EU from the premiership of Edward Heath (1970–74) until 1997 and the election of Tony Blair’s first Labour government. The chapter continues the ‘Britain in Europe’ theme by exploring the institutional and policy preferences of British governments, and the motivations underlying these preferences; the capacity in negotiation to attain UK objectives; and the ways in which preferences, motivation and bargaining capacity have changed over time. It will be shown that Britain has engaged with important developments in European integration such as the SEA and the Maastricht Treaty, but in ways that were consistent with views about the reach and scope of European integration. British governments have defined their relationship to the EU in relation to a particular normative vision of appropriate political, social and economic arrangements, and of Britain’s place in the world.
Andrew Geddes

Chapter 4. From New Labour to the Cameron Coalition

Abstract
This chapter assesses British relations with the EU during the three New Labour governments led by Tony Blair (between May 1997 and June 2007) and Gordon Brown (between June 2007 and May 2010), and during the Conservative—Liberal Democrat coalition government led since May 2010 by David Cameron. The focus is mainly on relations with the EU (the ‘Britain in Europe’ theme), while Chapter 9 pays close attention to debates within and between the main parties about the EU (the ‘Europe in Britain’ theme). It could be asked whether New Labour’s 1997 landslide victory heralded a new, more positive era in Britain’s relations with the EU. Alternatively, the return to power — albeit within a coalition — of the Conservative Party could mean that Britain has moved closer to the exit. For a political system within which change tends to be slow and incremental, both positive engagement and/or exit would be radical departures. To assess these issues, it is important to consider the criteria that would be used.
Andrew Geddes

Chapter 5. Britain, EU Institutions and Decision-Making Processes

Abstract
The EU is a political system in its own right with processes of debate, decision and implementation within which UK political institutions play a part, but within which power is shared. The chapter analyses EU institutions and their impact on British politics. It also opens a series of broader questions not just by looking at the role of EU institutions, but by thinking about representative politics in the EU through formal routes such as the EP, and also through interest representation and lobbying. By doing so, the chapter aims to go beyond the formal mechanics of EU institutional processes and explore some wider implications for British politics. Through the analysis of EU institutions and associated processes contained in this chapter, we see a key aspect of power sharing. This can be understood as a practical manifestation of a sometimes arcane and abstract debate about ‘sovereignty’. EU institutions represent the quest to create common decision-making procedures in areas of shared interest. The EU is a complex system of power sharing across levels of governance.
Andrew Geddes

Chapter 6. Britain and Core European Union Policies

Abstract
This chapter analyses what could be called ‘core’, or well-established, EU policies. Some (such as the budget, CAP, the common market and social policy) were established before Britain joined. Others (such as regional development and the environment) were not in the Treaty of Rome but have become key aspects of the EU policy agenda. The chapter will assess Britain’s variable role in policy design and development, and analyse effects of these policies in Britain (which now vary because of devolution). The chapter thus combines both the ‘Britain in Europe’ and ‘Europe in Britain’ themes as we begin to explore the ways in which Britain has sought to pursue its interests at EU level, and also look at how Europe hits home by affecting domestic politics.
Andrew Geddes

Chapter 7. Britain and the EU’s Move into High Politics

Abstract
This chapter analyses policy areas that can all be understood as ‘high politics’ and that relate very directly to state sovereignty. The Maastricht Treaty of 1992 pioneered this move into high politics and in Britain (as in other member states) it also led to more public debate about European integration. First, EMU and the creation of the euro are analysed. How and why was the eurozone built? Why did Britain choose not to replace sterling with the euro, and is there any chance that Britain will join the euro? What were the origins and effects of the post-2008 financial crisis and subsequent politics of austerity that have shaken the EU to its core? The chapter then assesses EU action on internal security, including migration, asylum and police cooperation. It asks why EU states have taken action in areas that relate so closely to national sovereignty? Why has Britain stood aside from the Schengen area’s removal of border controls for travel within the EU? Focus then shifts to foreign, security and defence policy. We see that the EU has been able to develop common structures in areas that are closely related to state sovereignty. We also see that Britain has tried to take on a leading role within the EU, but under certain conditions. Britain and France are Europe’s leading military powers.
Andrew Geddes

Chapter 8. The British State and European Integration

Abstract
This chapter examines the ways in which the British state has organized for Europe and the impacts of European competencies on the organization of the British state. It does so against a backdrop of significant change in the organization of the British political system, particularly the movement of power ‘up’ to the EU and ‘down’ to sub-state nations in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. These moves challenge the ‘power hoarding’ assumptions of the Westminster model, and an approach to the analysis of British politics that is focused only on Whitehall and Westminster (Matthews, 2011). That having been said, Britain’s EU policy is a power that continues to reside with the Westminster government within a tightly coordinated policy network, although devolution has changed the ways in which Britain interacts with the EU, and also with how the EU affects Britain.
Andrew Geddes

Chapter 9. British Party Politics and the Rise of Euroscepticism

Abstract
European integration has been both a divisive and, at times, explosive issue in British party politics. This chapter explains why, since the 1950s, neither of the two main national parties has adopted a consistent stance on European integration, and also why European integration still has such explosive potential, particularly for the Conservative Party. Divisions on Europe tend to be within, rather than between, parties and are crucially affected by the size of the governing party, party majorities or the effects of coalition government. Party leaders have been understood as seeking to balance between pro- and anti-EU wings of their parties, but with varying degrees of success. Balancing within and between parties has become more difficult in the context of coalition since the 2010 election. We also look at the rise of eurosceptic parties, particularly UKIP, as a distinct force in British politics, albeit without having yet made a breakthrough in ‘first order’ national elections to Parliament. The growth of euroscepticism is indicative of the ‘uncorking of the bottle’ of popular dissent about the European project and the move from a ‘permissive consensus’ to a ‘constraining dissensus’, as Hooghe and Marks (2008) put it.
Andrew Geddes

Chapter 10. Conclusions: Britain and the European Union Assessed

Abstract
No account of political change in Britain can ignore the ways in which European integration works its way into the nooks and crannies of British political life. For more than 40 years, ‘Europe’ has become institutionalized as a core concern of the British state, with important effects on political actors, the strategic environment within which they operate, and the various elements that need to be accounted for when political change in Britain is assessed. This book has sought to account for these effects, for the changes that European integration has brought about in British politics, and has endeavoured to weigh these developments alongside other causes of change. The analysis has addressed the ways in which current engagement has been shaped by the past, but has also asked whether the past is a reliable guide to the future in light of both the increased politicization of the European issue and the wider debate about the EU’s future.
Andrew Geddes
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