Which countries are dissatisfied with Great Britain?
Does the UK belong to Europe?
According to the current schedule, the UK will leave the European Union on March 29, 2019. The British Parliament is more divided than ever. As of July 2018, 19 members of the government have resigned. In order to avoid a defeat of her negotiated EU deal in parliament, Prime Minister Theresa May postponed the planned parliamentary vote last December into the new year. In doing so, she survived a vote of no confidence in her own conservative party.
In search of a British-European identity
This conflict over the role in Europe is not new. Since the beginning of European integration, for more than half a century, Great Britain has been searching for its own identity within Europe. When Winston Churchill spoke of his vision of the "United States of Europe" after the end of World War II in 1946, he was not speaking for himself and his country, but of a Europe without Great Britain. Great Britain should only play a supporting role - as a "friend and promoter of the new Europe". In 1973 Great Britain finally joined the European Communities.
The accession was mainly economically motivated, it was about becoming part of the internal market. Two years later, citizens were allowed to decide again on the European membership of Great Britain in a first referendum, a majority of 67 percent voted in 1975 to stay. - different than it should come in 2016. But Britain's membership of the EU has remained controversial over the past 40 years, and society has been divided on this issue. In opinion polls, tight majorities alternated for and against again and again.
Nina Locher is the author of the Heinrich Böll Foundation's Brexit blog and writes about current developments in Great Britain.
She is currently completing a Master of Public Administration at the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE). From 2016 to 2018 she was responsible for projects on Turkey and Greece as well as on the European energy transition at the Berlin headquarters of the Heinrich Böll Foundation.
In the Brexit blog, she addresses current developments in Great Britain as well as overarching topics such as gender and LGBTQ +, Bregret and the Brexit generation.
The fundamental question is whether Great Britain is part of Europe at all. The very use of the word is telling. For example, my British roommate in London told me he was going “to Europe” over the weekend to visit a friend in Paris. Although he clearly identifies himself as a European, for him Europe is synonymous with the “continent” - and Great Britain is not part of this European continent.
Margaret Thatcher accordingly secured Great Britain a special role within the European Communities in 1979, which essentially reduced membership to the internal market. Thatcher's neo-liberal reforms and their dismantling of the British welfare state led to increasing social and economic inequality. The resulting dissatisfaction was expressed, among other things, in the voting behavior of many citizens who voted for Brexit.
The Brexit vote calls for more identity with Europe
But how do the British view Europe since the decision for Brexit? The referendum has resulted in many citizens grappling with European values and privileges that they previously took for granted and thus developed a more conscious attitude.
Niccolò Milanese, chairman of the European network European Alternatives, believes that the younger generation in particular, who have largely voted to remain in the Union, have recognized their own closeness to Europe. The decision in favor of Brexit has meant that people are actively seeking a greater understanding of the EU and also a second referendum. It motivated us to discuss and argue about the EU and to position ourselves politically. For the British, this is a big step towards Europe.
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