Britain’s Role within a Changing EU: Is its Departure Inevitable?

Nov 15, 2012 14:00

A roundtable discussing the UK's position in the EU and the prospect of leaving the EU.

On Thursday 15th November 2012 a roundtable discussion took place at the LCSS about Britain’s role and possible departure within the European Union (EU). The keynote speakers for this event were Professor Christoph Meyer (King’s College London) and Professor Richard G Whitman (Chatham House & University of Kent). The topic is of extreme relevance due to the high level of coverage in the media on the EU and Britain’s future within the union with a number of academics and students attending the debate.

Professor Meyer suggested that the UK’s departure from the EU is not inevitable as very few things in politics are. He also mentioned the difference in the climate and perception towards the EU and the rising probability of departure compared to two years ago. The continued media coverage was pointed out with the influence this has had on party politics as well as public opinion. Also, the relatively small number of Eurosceptics in parliament has a disproportionate level of power. The Liberal Democrats who are generally seen as pro-European are not sticking their neck out for Europe due to the negative media coverage they have been receiving on a number of issues. The labour party has not been playing that counter-weight against the Eurosceptics and no one within the pro-EU camp has stepped up to make a case for staying within the EU. Due to Britain’s stance over the EU in recent times, with the conservative party removing itself from sister parties in the European Parliament, the UK is seen to have lost political capital, including member states which are traditionally its allies, and that no country in the EU would “stick its neck out for the UK.”

Professor Whitman was mainly in agreement with Professor Meyer’s speech, especially that UK’s exit is more plausible than previous years yet not inevitable. The UK’s exit, or Brexit, is something which would not halt the integration process in that the EU is already leaving the UK behind. He also added that the rise in Euroscepticism can be linked to the rise in nationalism within the UK. Professor Whitman also gave an insight into the alternatives of EU membership such as the EEA option as well as a privileged partnership with the EU or in search of different bilateral partnerships, however it was stated that a serious debate with regards to alternatives has not really happened. The prospect of also having a referendum referred to as “referendum-fetish” is a concept which the public is strongly in favour of and interestingly a concept which all three major political parties, including the Labour party, will eventually subscribe to according to Professor Whitman.

The discussion was finalised with a Question & Answers session from the discussants before a final refreshments and networking session which ended this interesting and timely event.



Dr Zeynep Engin (LCSS)

Dr Sacha Garben (LSE)

Simon McMahon (King’s College London)

Gonenc Uysal (KCL)

Ozdemir Ahmet (LCSS)

Ufuk Ucar (LCSS)

Omer Faruk Direk (University of Kent)

Fabian Zhilla (King’s College London)

Matteo Ferlone(LSBU)

Dan Chapman (LSBU)

John Morris (LSBU)

Jed Harris (LSBU)

Murat Akyokus  (KCL)

David Barraclough (London Met)


Prof Christoph Meyer

Head of the Department of European & International Studies, King's College London

Prof Richard G Whitman

School of Politics and International Relations, University of Kent


London Centre for Social Studies (LCSS)

73 Watling Street London EC4M 9BJ

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