We should remain friends


Cette phrase, employée généralement lors de ruptures amoureuses, marquerait-elle celle entre nos chers amis britanniques et l’Union Européenne ? En effet lors d’un entretien accordé à un journal allemand, Jacques Delors a suggéré à nos amis d’outre-manche de quitter l’UE. Cette déclaration est un pavé dans la marre pour David Cameron qui a affirmé récemment son soutien à l’UE face à la montée de l’euroscepticisme au sein de son parti.


More political integration seems to be the key to overcome the current crisis. However, the UK appears antagonistic to more integration, meaning more political solidarity between all EU members.

However, it seems that the UK is only interested in defending its own economic interests. Delors (the former president of the European commission and advocate of the European project in the eighties) noticed it and said on December 28th: “The British are solely concerned about their economic interests , nothing else” and “they could be offered a different form of partnership”. Indeed, his idea is that Britain could leave the Union and have a new partnership with it, mostly an economic one, chiefly a new free trade agreement.

That’s exactly what Cameron is trying to defend: he supports Britain’s membership in the EU but seeks a “new settlement” which involves opting-out on key issues (like justice measures or the centralization of power in Brussels).

However, Delors’ position suggests that France is willing to let go of Britain as it could be more profitable to France. He added: “We can nevertheless remain friends, but on a different basis”. But it wouldn’t be so for Europe. The EU cannot set aside the importance of the British economy, nor the damage that a British exit could do to European integration. The European Union could fall apart quickly and the single market endure great damage. The UK’s exit from the union would be like “a friend walking off into the desert”, according to European Union president Herman Van Rompuy. Truly, it would have as bad a consequence for Britain as it would for the EU.

But the increase of euroscepticism in Britain is striking. Indeed, recent opinion polls show that most Britons are in favor of leaving the union and the rise of UKIP in the last elections show the same evolution (it came 2nd in 2009 and recently became the 3rd English party); it could definitely win the next European elections next year. Cameron is under pressure from the eurosceptics in his party and he called for a referendum about Britain’s EU membership in 2015. The current trend in public opinion seems very clear: a recent survey in the Guardian revealed that 51 % of Britons would vote today against the EU, 40 % only would vote in favor of staying in it.


But Cameron’s eurosceptic strategy is a strategy to meet electoral needs because in the surveys he is far behind (more than 10% behind) Ed Miliband, leader of the Labour Party. David Cameron is clearly looking for the help of the eurosceptics in his party to win the 2014 election.

Finally, the Scots and Alex Salmond are very glad of this situation. Indeed Alex Salmond is the one who, two months ago, negotiated with Cameron the referendum on Scottish independence in 2014. And one of the arguments of the independentists is to convince the population that they want to stay in the EU while Britain wants to leave out. Delors’ interview could be a precious help for them.




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