Prof. Dr. Melanie Sully

Brexit, UK after the Election

Interview in the "Wiener Zeitung" 27.5. 2015 with Dr Melanie Sully on the Brexit referendum and the policies of the new Cameron government with regard to Europe

As the new/old Prime Minister Cameron starts his diplomatic charm offensive to win allies for his reform of the EU, the Wiener Zeitung talked to Dr Melanie Sully on the Queens speech presented to parliament. The speech is written by the Prime Minister and sets out the legislative programme for the coming year. As promised in the Conservative manifesto the commitment to hold an in/out referendum on EU membership is given priority. The Labour party has now given the referendum idea support. Also we know from the Bill that the government wants to exclude EU citizens living in the UK from voting. One item in the manifesto which was promised to be put through in 100 days was the aim of abolishing the Human Rights Act passed by a Labour government in 1998. This is a very controversial point since it could mean that the UK would have to leave the Council of Europe putting it in the same league as Belarus. It also comes up against the problem that the Act is ingrained in the devolved administrations eg Scotland that does not share the same views as the Conservatives but also is part of the Good Friday Agreement in Northern Ireland. Any attempt to alter the status quo there could unleash instability. Also a Brexit would be detrimental for Ireland which joined at the same time as the UK in 1973. It would mean that for the first time there would be a physical border with controls between Northern Ireland and Ireland. However polls suggest that Britons do not want to leave the EU but would really like some changes. As Cameron has said, the status quo is not an option. But what asks the Wiener Zeitung, would these changes be: Dr Sully mentions just some where other EU member states could be won over eg on strengthening and simplifying ideas such as subsidiarity and giving more power to national parliaments. Also the confusion on plans to restrict immigration from EU countries could be explained to mean that people shold contribute to the system before taking out. In this Cameron has also some support from Labour but also other countries. But what if Cameron does not succeed? Then says Dr Sully there are others more radical willing to take over the mantle of leaving the EU in his own party but also UKIP that won over four million votes but only one seat in the House of Commons. In any case if the UK did leave it would not be overnight and it could according to existing treaties work out some kind of special relationship. After 40 years of EU membership it would not be easy and legislation would not be simply abandoned. So how should the campaign be managed. Well Dr Sully mentions how not to win over the voters for Europe, ie by refraining from Project Fear. Britons were told the world would come to an end if they did not introduce the Euro and now most are glad with the Grexit crisis that the UK is not in the Eurozone. The coming year will see more developments on this story.