Tag Archives: EU

The Dismal Debate: would a “Brexit” mean more power for the UK?

MFlinders-new-smallBy Matthew Flinders

“Money, money money. Must be funny. In a rich man’s world.” As an academic I’m highly unlikely to ever have either “money, money, money” or live in a “rich man’s world.” But as a long-time student of politics I’ve been struck by how the debate in the UK about the forthcoming referendum on membership of the European Union has been framed around just two issues – money and power. The political calculation being peddled in the UK is therefore embarrassingly simple: leaving the EU would mean that the UK had more money and more power.

This really has been a dismal debate. Those in favour of “Brexit” or “Bremain” have both engaged in an almost hysterical game of chasing shadows and creating phantoms. Shadows in the sense of making largely spurious claims about the impact of leaving the EU (i.e. “It would be very very bad!” or “It would be very very good”) when the truth of the matter is that no one really knows what would happen if the UK left the Union. Predictions must try to grapple with so many variables and uncertainties that the only way anyone would ever really know what would happen would be by the UK actually leaving. And yet part of this rather childish playground-like debate has been an automatic default to simplistic zero-sum games that are of little value in the real world. Would the UK really save any money if it stopped paying in to the EU budget? Well at a simplistic level it would but at a more sophisticated level it may not because the UK would then no longer receive funding back from the EU or have a seat at the table in major decisions concerning large infrastructure projects.

Would the UK really have more power, and the EU therefore “less” power, if the UK walked away? There seems to be no understanding of either positive-sum conceptions of power (i.e. by pooling some powers with other actors we overall actually gain more power and influence in some policy areas than we could ever have on our own) or the real world of global governance or international affairs. Does the UK really think that a small island just nine hundred miles long off the coast of continental Europe really still remains a global heavyweight with the capacity to “go it alone?” The seas of contemporary international politics rage like a storm: there is great value in setting sail in flotillas rather than in single small boats, and far better to have safe and secure anchorage points in the middle of a tornado. (And recent years have sent us political and economic storms, tornadoes and hurricanes that really should make the UK think twice.)

In this context, President Obama’s recent intervention was a beautiful mixture of charm laced with menace. The UK, was for him, taking a huge step into the unknown and caution was being urged. But Obama’s intervention also raised two issues that have simply not received the attention they deserve, issues that could transform a dismal debate into something quite different. The first is a shift away from a simplistic focus on power and money and back to a more basic focus on war and terror. To make such a point is not to engage in ‘the politics of fearmongering’ that is ripe in the UK at the moment but to make the simple point that the EU was from its very inception framed around the need to ensure peace through collective efforts. From the creation of the European Coal and Steel Community in 1951 the underpinning ideal of the EU knew the value of international co-operation and not just its price. In terms of fostering peace and co-operation across an ever-larger union of countries the EU can only be seen as a success.

This leads me to the second (‘Obama-esque’) issue: national confidence. I can’t help wondering if what is actually driving the Brexit campaign in the UK is a lack of confidence and national belief. This might seem odd in light of the desire to ‘go-it-alone’ but there is a lot of huff and puff behind the UK’s constant position as an “awkward partner” within the EU. The missing component – the political ‘X-Factor’ – of the current debate about the UK and the EU is not about leaving but about recommitting to the ideals and vision of the EU in a different but positive way. This is not the same as adopting a federal vision or embracing ‘ever closure union’ but it is about adopting a more positive ‘Yes We Can!’ attitude to re-shaping the EU with the UK at its core and not dragging its feet like a recalcitrant teenager on its periphery. Now wouldn’t that make for a more refreshing debate?

Matthew Flinders is Founding Director of the Sir Bernard Crick Centre at the University of Sheffield and is also Chair of the Political Studies Association of the United Kingdom. He has just launched a major research and public engagement project called ‘Designing for Democracy’ which is focused on the restoration and renewal of the Palace of Westminster in London and uses this multi-billion pound infrastructure project to re-think the nature of democracy “in theory” and democracy “in practice.”  http://www.designingfordemocracy.com

If you enjoyed this blog, you may also be interested to read Depoliticization, governance and the state by Matthew Flinders and Matt Wood.

Reposted with kind permission fromhttp://blog.oup.com/2016/05/brexit-uk-eu-power/, where this article first appeared on 1 May 2016

Conceptualising European Integration

Claudia Wiesner
Claudia Wiesner

by Claudia Wiesner,  Acting professor for Comparative Politics and International Development Studies at the University of Marburg in Germany and Associate Professor (dosentti) at Jyväskylä University in Finland.

In my research I currently concentrate on studying political concepts in European integration. During a Marie Curie fellowship at Jyväskylä University´s Finnish centre for Political Thought and Conceptual Change 2012-2014 I developed a research agenda for applying the approaches and practices of conceptual history (or Begriffsgeschichte in German) to the analysis of European integration from a political science perspective.

Political concepts have two dimensions that are particularly important for political science: They first serve as tools for describing, analysing, explaining, and understanding its research objects ‒ concepts serve as analytical and theoretical categories. But, this is a key insight of conceptual history or Begriffsgeschichte, political concepts are not static and immutable, they are themselves contested and controversial and an object of politics. Concepts, second, are factors and indicators of social, institutional and political changes, conflicts or debates. Continue reading Conceptualising European Integration

Squaring European workers’ mobility with occupational pensions?

Igor Guardiancich
Igor Guardiancich

In 2013, the University of Southern Denmark hired me together with a young Romanian colleague. While I was able to join straight away, she had to delay her arrival and extend her contract in Germany for an extra two months. Otherwise, she would have partly lost the entitlements accruing from her previous university’s pension scheme. This is because the minimum period to acquire occupational pension rights in Germany is five years. Hence, her right to the free movement of workers, guaranteed by the EU since 1958, was infringed.

The main problem lies with the coordination of social security rights across the EU. Even though the Coordination Regulations are the most advanced system worldwide that guarantees the portability of social security benefits for migrants, they cover statutory pension schemes only. By excluding supplementary, occupational pensions, they leave a regulatory gap in the protection of migrant workers under EU law. After decades of inertia, this suddenly changed in 2014 with the Supplementary Pension Rights Directive. Continue reading Squaring European workers’ mobility with occupational pensions?

‘Did you hear the one about the immigrant barman?’ The role of legal status and legal insecurity in immigrant occupational attainment in Europe

Owen Corrigan
Owen Corrigan

Owen Corrigan, Trinity College Dublin, introduces his article ‘Conditionality of legal status and immigrant occupational attainment in western Europe‘. It is now available on Policy & Politics fast track.

Why is that immigrant barman fresh from architecture school designing only shamrocks on the head of your Guinness? Or that cleaning lady with perfect English and the degree in literature, why is she cleaning the blackboard at your kids’ school and not teaching at it? Traditional accounts of immigrant success, or otherwise, in the labour market highlight a number of important, even obvious, factors at play in outcomes such as these: grasp of the language, level of education, time in the country, and networks of contacts all matter.

Not all migrants hold low level jobs of course: 28% of third-country nationals in the UK in 2006 were employed in ‘prestige’ occupations. However Continue reading ‘Did you hear the one about the immigrant barman?’ The role of legal status and legal insecurity in immigrant occupational attainment in Europe

Women are worse affected by the crisis and changes to pensions

Liam Foster
Liam Foster

Liam Foster gives us an insights into his latest article in Policy & Politics on the impact of the latest pension reforms on women. Liam is from the University of Sheffield, UK.

The global economic and financial circumstances since the summer of 2007 are without precedent in post-war history. The resultant higher unemployment, lower growth, increasing national debt and financial market volatility have made it harder to deliver on pension promises and demonstrated serious weaknesses in the design of many pension schemes and their long-term sustainability. The crisis has enhanced existing challenges as well as creating new ones. This has accelerated the momentum of change in relation to pensions in a number of EU countries. Recent strategies to deal with pension challenges have differed with some countries extending help to safeguard private schemes while, in others, pension Continue reading Women are worse affected by the crisis and changes to pensions

Poverty and social policy in Europe 2020

Paul Copeland and Mary Daly
Paul Copeland and Mary Daly

Paul Copeland, Queen Mary University of London, and Mary Daly, University of Oxford offer a critical analysis of EU social policy in their article available in the latest issue of Policy & Politics.

Having written about EU social policy for over a decade, our view is that the EU currently is going nowhere in its social policies to combat poverty and social exclusion. Such policies are in themselves ambitious and also novel in an EU context – centring on the 2010 target within the EU’s Europe 2020 reform programme, the EU aims to reduce the numbers living in poverty and social exclusion by 20 million by 2020. While this broke new ground when it was agreed we remain skeptical in terms of the ability of the EU to make progress and achieve substantive positive outcomes on poverty. In our paper we construct a framework to analyse the significance of a policy area within a governance architecture, such as Europe 2020. Continue reading Poverty and social policy in Europe 2020