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About this book

As Britain prepares to vote on its continued membership of the EU, this insightful and engaging book sets on the arguments in favour of Britain's continued place in the EU and shows how the EU, in spite of its problems, has made Europe a better, more peaceful, and more prosperous place. 

  • Published to coincide with the referendum on Britain's place in the European Union
  • Written by a bestselling writer who is renowned for his ability to present complex material in a clear and engaging way
  • Makes the pro-European case, without glossing over the challenges the EU faces

Table of Contents

Introduction: Britain’s Place in Europe

Abstract
On 6 June 1975, the UK held its first ever national referendum. The question on the ballot was whether it should remain a member of the European Economic Community (EEC), a body it had joined less than 30 months before. By a margin of more than two to one, with 65 per cent turnout, the vote was in favour of staying, a result that Prime Minister Harold Wilson greeted as an historic decision. But while the vote was promoted as an opportunity for the British people to say what they thought about EEC membership, it was as much as anything an effort by Wilson to end a damaging internal disagreement within the Labour Party about British membership. Home Secretary Roy Jenkins claimed that the result put an end to the uncertainty, and committed Britain to playing an active, constructive and enthusiastic role in Europe. But while the British role may since have been active and generally constructive, it has never been all that enthusiastic.
John McCormick

1. What Is Europe?

Abstract
The debate about Europe suffers from a single, acute handicap: most people know little about how the European Union works, and most of the rest cannot agree on what it is or what it might become. There are many opinions but few hard certainties, and the result has been a turmoil of confusion and misrepresentation, begging the obvious question of how we can have an informed or productive exchange without understanding just what we are discussing. It is much like the Indian parable of the group of blind people who try to determine what an elephant looks like by touching it and then comparing notes; how we understand the EU depends on how we look at it, how we define its work, and our points of comparison. Even those best placed to help us understand - the university scholars who base their careers on studying and explaining the EU - have stumbled. In their well-meaning efforts to pin down its character, they have offered such uncongenial labels as multi-level governance, consociationalism and quasi-federal polity, to each of which other scholars have been quick to offer strings of objections.
John McCormick

2. Europe as a Peacemaker

Abstract
At heart, European integration was always driven by the desire to bring peace to a part of the world once synonymous with war and violence. The European Union, argues former Irish prime minister John Bruton, is the worlds most successful invention for advancing peace. For many, the award of the Nobel Peace Prize to the EU in 2012 was well deserved and a fitting recognition of the role that it has played as a peacemaker. So successful has been that role that fear and distrust have been replaced in the region with nonchalance and familiarity, and the idea that European states might go to war with one another again is unthinkable, even laughable. This is a condition that historians call a positive or a sustainable peace.1 So normal has peace in Europe become that the novelist Umberto Eco regrets that no one realizes how amazing that is any more.2 Noting the disappearance of personal memories of war, which he regards as the greatest single driving force of the European project since 1945, Timothy Garton Ash concludes that the deepest problem of the European project is the problem of success.3
John McCormick

3. Europe as a Marketplace

Abstract
Ask Britons what the European project means to them, and most will quickly point to the single market and the euro. Even if much else about the EU puzzles them, most can readily relate to the single market, the one part of the European project that has most clearly changed their lives and that has the widest support. The euro, meanwhile, was intended to be the glue that held the single market together, clearing the path to the final achievement of Europes famous four freedoms: the unrestricted movement of people, money, goods and services. There has been a great deal to celebrate in the single market, and the benefits of a single currency will become clear again once the problems of the euro have been resolved. But both initiatives have suffered from a distinct lack of political courage: too many barriers remain to the single market, and not enough has been done to provide the euro with the features it needs to be a real success.
John McCormick

4. Europe as a Democracy

Abstract
The EU is often criticized for being elitist and undemocratic, and for being run by technocrats who are out of touch with the needs and views of ordinary Europeans. Scholars have spent much time pondering what they describe as its democratic deficit, or the gap between the work of the EU institutions and the ability of ordinary Europeans to have a say in that work. Such is the problem that a member of the British parliament was once prompted to quip that if the EU applied for membership of itself, it would be denied on the grounds that it lacked the necessary democratic credentials.1 There is a popular perception that the EU institutions are unaccountable, which is why the comments section of online stories about the EU will often find it described as an unelected, unaccountable, corrupt monolith with an overbearing bureaucracy (or words to that effect). But herein lie several of the numerous paradoxes about the EU. First, it is criticized for being undemocratic, and yet the most obvious solution - the creation of an elected and representative European government - is vigorously and widely opposed.
John McCormick

5. Europe as a Community

Abstract
To have a shared purpose and identity is difficult without a sense of community, and on this front the European project has much still to do. We have created Europe, the Polish historian Bronislaw Geremek once quipped (borrowing from the Italian patriot Garibaldi). Now we have to create Europeans. But what is a European? This is a question often posed but rarely answered, and the lack of an answer, coupled with the seeming lack of a sense of community, is often cited as one of the great weaknesses of the European project; nothing raises more doubts about Europe, it seems, than the lack of a sense of what it means to be European. The challenges are substantial. What can people have in common when they speak more than 60 major languages, live in a region that extends from north of the Arctic Circle to within miles of the coast of Africa, mainly know little about one another, and are divided among more than 40 different states and several hundred national groups? Bismarck once described Europe as no more than a geographical expression, and there are many today who - in the absence of compelling evidence to the contrary - still see some truth in that observation. Language is no help, because Europeans speak so many.
John McCormick

6. Europe as a Political Model

Abstract
We have seen how the charges of the eurosceptics are out of step with the thinking of the majority of Europeans. Polls reveal that, by large majorities, Europeans support the EU and consider it to be both democratic and modern (even if enthusiasm has tailed off in the wake of the euro zone crisis). Polls also reveal that more people trust the EU institutions than trust their own national governments. On only one major issue is euroscepticism more closely aligned with public opinion: the European institutions are widely considered to be inefficient.1 But while the EU institutions are certainly imperfect, so are all large organizations or networks of institutions, whether local or national, private or public in their reach. Who among us, after all, does not have unhappy stories to tell about dealing with bureaucracies or of trying to find our way to a responsive (even, sometimes, a human) corporate customer service agent? It is a curious aspect of the debate about Europe that the EU institutions are criticized for their flaws as though they were almost unique in having such flaws. They are, for example, derided for being a source of questionable new regulations as though European lawmakers had mastered a skill that has so far eluded lawmakers at the national and local level.
John McCormick

7. Europe as a Global Player

Abstract
The idea that the European Union might be a major global power has surprisingly few takers. It rarely crops up in any of the debates about the current or future shape of the international system, where the United States retains its dominance and fascination continues to grow with the rise of China, India, Brazil and other emerging powers. Europe, meanwhile, is accused of being too parochial and introspective, of being too protectionist, and of falling behind in its preparations for the world of tomorrow. Europe, it seems, has become the past while Asia and Latin America are the future. And even when the EUs role in the world is discussed, it is often disdained. Does the EU count in the world? asked Commission president Manuel Barroso in 2010. Yes, he answered. But does the EU count as much as it should? he continued. Not yet, he answered, because the EU was not doing enough to define and defend the European interest.1 There are two main reasons for the mismatch between prospect and reality. First, we remain - even in the market- and trade-driven age of globalization - infatuated with military power. No matter the questionable value of violence as a tool of statecraft, we remain more impressed with sticks than with carrots.
John McCormick

8. Fourteen Reasons Why Europe Matters to Britain

Abstract
There is a scene in Monty Pythons Life of Brian in which two activists complain about the Roman imperialist state and ask their audience what the Romans have ever done for them, other than bleed them white and take everything they ever had. The audience starts to offer suggestions. Romans provided the aqueduct, says one. Sanitation, says another. The list continues: roads, irrigation, medicine, education, health, wine, public safety and peace. All right, responds the leading character in frustration, but apart from all that what have the Romans really done for them? It can sometimes seem that Europe faces the same problem of unrecognized contributions, particularly in the UK. What has it done for us, ask its critics, apart from chipping away at British national sovereignty, promoting government by unelected bureaucrats, opening British borders to new waves of immigrants, costing millions in budget contributions and tying Britain in bundles of red tape? In this book I have argued that European integration has in fact provided a great deal but that we have not always been good at appreciating this. Distracted by the misunderstanding and misrepresentation that colours much of the debate about Europe, it has been easy for many Britons to conclude that the European project is elitist, undemocratic, opaque, unpopular and inefficient.
John McCormick
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