2. THE FUTURE OF THE EU
This year has certainly been a year of turmoil and turbulence for the European Union. From the Greek and refugee crises through to Cameron's renegotiation demands, the EU has faced another year of critics questioning its relevance.
Policy Network has undertaken a wide variety of research and analysis on the future of the EU, looking at the politics behind the upcoming UK referendum, the continued importance of the EU as an international institution, and how the centre left can create a coherent vision for the role of the EU.
The Risk of Brexit, by Roger Liddle, has been one of Policy Network's flagship publications in 2015:
Any referendum in an age of massive public disillusionment with established politics is by definition a gamble ... while the gamble is reckless, the British people have chosen to give David Cameron the permission to throw the dice.
– Roger Liddle
The book looks to outline what Cameron seeks from renegotiations with the EU, and what the political ramifications of such discussions will be.
A launch event was held for the book in early December, with guest speakers Emma Reynolds, Philip Stephens and other:
Policy Network has published three other major reports on the UK-EU question:
Labour's shadow Europe minister Pat McFadden and Andy Tarrant rigorously examine four of the most widely canvassed alternatives in case of Brexit: the 'Norwegian option', the 'Swiss option', the 'WTO option' and a 'special free trade agreement' option. The analysis shows that the arguments advanced for how Britain could do better outside the EU are based on false premises which do not stand up to close scrutiny.
Sofia Vasilopoulou, of the University of York, conducted an online survey to find out how British people feel towards the EU and its authority over in specific policy areas. The data highlight the clash between emotional and rational attitudes towards the EU, and a significant variation in support for different EU policies.
Policy Network researched the stances of the UK's main EU partners ahead of Britain's EU renegotiation talks. We found overall that EU member states strongly wish to keep Britain in, yet not at any price. All our partners share fundamental sympathy for Britain, and genuine fear of Brexit, but they are not ready to be blackmailed to give Conservative backbenchers satisfaction. Even among traditional allies like Sweden or Poland, patience with Britain's distant attitude is in short supply.
Our analysis also stressed that there are 'low hanging fruits’ in the renegotiation, for which legal and political solutions could be found despite the absence of immediate treaty change: an agreement on a looser interpretation of ‘ever-closer union’; a bigger for national parliaments; a renewed commitment behind the EU’s competitiveness agenda. However, the report warns that the freedom of movement and the relationship between the eurozone and non-euro countries are the most difficult areas of discussion.
KEY EVENTS AND DEBATES
Frans Timmermans' speech to Policy Network
A major event was the European commission first vice-president Frans Timmermans' keynote speech to Policy Network's conference on 'Growth, reform and public trust in Europe', in March . The conference took place at Reuters' head offices in London and included speakers and panellists such as Jonathan Faull, Guntram Wolff, Pat McFadden, Natalie Nougayrède and Laura Sandys.
EU debates at Labour party conference
Policy Network's fringe event on 'Securing Britain and Europe's economic future' chaired by Bloomberg's Anna Edwards and featuring Peter Mandelson, Pat McFadden, Jonathan Criddland, Mark Boleats and Chuka Umunna proved extremely successful.
To watch highlights of the event filmed by Bloomberg, see here.
We also held a 'night-owl session' on freedom of movement within the EU in partnership with the Foundation for European Progressives Studies (Feps).
Policy Network have also published numerous articles on the future of the EU:
The prime minister's demands for the future of the EU vary hugely in relevance and plausibility – Richard Corbett
Between the lines, the new 'five presidents' report' on the future of EMU tells an interesting story about how eurozone leaders see their future together. Britain should take note – Renaud Thillaye
Is the obsession with EU 'red tape' justified and can measures be taken to reduce it? According to available data, not entirely – Andrea Renda