This contribution was sent exclusively to EurActiv by FRIDE.
"A common theme of comment on the UK election has been the suggestion that the rise of the Liberal Democrats heralds a Europeanisation of British politics. Whatever the results of the election at the end of this week, the face of UK politics is likely to change forever. The case for electoral reform will be even stronger after an election that may hinge on some extremely arbitrary electoral arithmetic and complex deal-making.
This may indeed portend a future of shifting alliances and collation-building, much more akin to politics in other European countries. However, it remains uncertain whether this will have a beneficial impact on Britain's role in the European Union. Nick Clegg's rise would appear to be good news for the EU. But it would be premature for pro-Europeans to feel optimistic.
It is still possible that the Conservatives will scrape an absolute majority. A small Conservative majority could take us back to the early 1990s, when a small band of the most hardened Eurosceptics ran the show.
But even if this most obviously negative scenario fails to materialise, the direction of future European policy remains highly uncertain. It must be recognised that one thing that the rise of the Liberal Democrats does not reflect is any sense of euro-enthusiasm. Polls suggest that the UK public remain stubbornly sceptical of most dimensions of the integration project. In this sense, from a pro-European perspective, the current upward trajectory of the Liberal Democrats might be considered entirely fortuitous. The third party is performing strongly due to a sense of general malaise, disaffection with the two main parties and the undoubted debating skills of its leader. Its rise has occurred not because of but despite its pro-European stance.
The question is whether the electoral maths unravel in a way that gives the party an influence over government sufficient to embed a pro-European politics. It is by no means clear that this will indeed be the case. The style of politics may become more 'continental' but the substance will be much more uncertain as it becomes subject to inter-party negotiations. The results will be unpredictable.
On this question, the significance of events in recent weeks is that the prospect of David Cameron aiming to reach some kind of accord with Nick Clegg is for the first time being entertained with some degree of seriousness. This would throw open the very fundamentals of European policy, making it subject to some intriguing back-room machinations.
The Liberal Democrats have enumerated positions that appear 'softer' on international security issues. A crucial question in the post-electoral period will be how far the Liberal Democrats press for their own positions on issues such as nuclear non-proliferation, positive engagement with the likes of Iran and Libya, and a less Atlantic-centred approach to strategic alliances.
It may well be that on such issues the Liberal Democrats' rise nudges the UK closer to standard 'European' approaches on such issues (in so far as these exist). But whether that actually helps render the EU's ineffective geostrategic policies any more successful is doubtful.
It is also unlikely that the UK's complex internal politicking will have any significant bearing on European coordination towards the economic crisis. Despite the Liberal Democrats' long-term aspiration to take Britain into the euro, whatever the result this week the UK is likely to remain relatively aloof from any incipient EU 'economic governance'. And the UK is likely to remain marginal to efforts to resolve the Greek crisis.
Moreover, the Liberal Democrat wish to hold a referendum on the UK's membership is a high-risk strategy. If voters felt they were being cornered into providing a blanket 'yes' to the EU, unable to register concerns over the aspects of European integration that engender genuine concern, a 'no' vote might not be as unthinkable as is assumed.
In sum, Nick Clegg's rise would seem to be good news for Europe, but might also throw open a few Pandora's Boxes along the way. The most exciting UK election for a generation enters its final furlong this week with its implications for the EU very much up in the air."