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04/12/2016

Report dismisses ‘Europhobe’ idea of Britain’s EU isolation

UK & Europe

Report dismisses ‘Europhobe’ idea of Britain’s EU isolation

Peter WIlding of British Influence [Cicero Group/Flickr]

[Cicero Group/Flickr]

The UK is successfully pursuing its policy objectives in the EU, according to a new report dismissing the idea of Britain as isolated and lacking in allies.

For the second year in a row, the UK has more successes than failures when it comes to pushing its agenda at EU level.

According to UK Scorecard, compiled by the pro-European pressure group British Influence, the UK was only unsuccessful in 4 of its 44 policy aims during 2014. The policy breakdown is based on the British government’s Balance of Competencies exercise.

>> Read: Cameron takes gamble with in/out EU referendum pledge

Speaking at the launch event, Carl Bildt, the former prime minister of Sweden, said that although the UK had isolated itself in Europe through “various steps”, the current strategic agenda of the European Commission “reads like it was written in London.”

“[The] mainstream issues on the EU agenda this year – the EU-US trade deal and the creation of a Single Market in energy and digital sectors – are what Britain wants,” said Bildt. “They are in the UK’s interests as well as Europe’s. That is why many countries look to Britain to set out a vision and provide leadership.  When it does, British influence really works.  When it doesn’t, Europe drifts.”

“Europhobes depict the UK as isolated and ganged up upon in Brussels,” said British Influence Director, Peter Wilding. “This is utterly wrong and defeatist.”

“Britain is very successful in pursuing its policy goals at EU level,” added Wilding.

>> Read: Poll shows half of Brits would vote to leave the EU

Despite the successes, prominent failures have received more extensive domestic media coverage. In the areas of EU enlargement, the free movement of people and access to welfare benefits, as well as increasing the number of British nationals working in EU institutions the UK failed to meet its objectives.

However, in a host of other policy areas, Britain is making its influence felt at the top of European decision making including rules on the single market, free trade agreements and carbon targets.

The report comes a day after a YouGov poll showed 43% of Britons would vote to stay in the EU, while 38% would vote to leave. This represents a reversal in opinion from a year ago, when 46% said they would vote to leave, compared to 36% who would vote to stay in. The remainders either didn’t know, or said they would not vote.

Another poll by research company ComRes, on behalf of Open Europe, has support for UK membership in a reformed EU at 60%. 

>> Read: Poll: British support for EU membership hits 23-year high

Background

UK Prime Minister David Cameron promised to offer Britons a simple ‘in-out’ referendum on whether to stay in the European Union if he wins the next election in 2015.

Cameron's referendum pledge, made in a landmark speech in in January 2013, appeared to resonate with public opinion at the time.

An opinion poll conducted in February that year showed 50%  of Britons would vote “out” against 33% “in” and 17% who would not vote either way.

But another opinion poll, published in October 2014, showed support for staying in the European Union was at its highest in 23 years.

 

Timeline

  • 7 May 2015: UK general election
  • 2017: proposed year of referendum

Further Reading