November 26, 2012
After having dealt with UK positions towards the European Union, it is necessary to understand EU position towards United Kingdom.
As already stated yesterday, UK a member of the back in time ECC in 1973. Before that, anyway, UK applied for membership in 1961 and 1967. So what was the problem? One country: France. De Gaulle vetoed UK application for a set of simple reasons, which right now it is possible to define as anachronistic. First reasons I would underline is that De Gaulle felt France was denied equal status compared to other allies during WW 2 summits. Moreover, France did not support UK special relations with United States.
Of course this is a simplification of reality, and it is not possible to deny the support Germany gave to France positions. Of course this attitude did exacerbate UK population feelings an EEC membership and, in addition to this, also government position.
As a matter of fact the European Economic Community and then the European Union has always been seen and acted as a “normative power” using soft power instead of hard power in the system of world politics (I always prefer to use a systematic approach, treating the macro sectors of world politics instead of focusing on single States).
It is then possible to stress and important difference between UK and ECC (EU): a different approach on the definition of power and its utilization. Moreover, most of the Member States have never agreed on a Community with a kind of hard power, first of all because of US position, then because of NATO (the two go together) and thirdly because of too many different national interests and strategic views in the field of foreign policy, mainly of UK.
When analyzing UK-EU relations, most of the time the foreign “policy factor” is not deeply considered but, in my opinion, if one of the key factors in understanding their weakness. ECC and EU have never been in the position to create a real common foreign policy, because of a lack of imposing attitude, deriving also from the weakness of those Member States willing to create an appropriate framework to operate in this policy domain. United Kingdom has always been a strong and powerful actor in this field and, of course, has always tried to retain its power and position. A stronger integration in this field would have for sure out some constraints on UK position and also it might have created a framework for a redefinition of UK position towards the Union. In synthesis, a first reason for the lack of stronger relations between UK and EU is the lack of a strong position of the institutions of the latter in the field of foreign policy, which has not put enough constraints on the action of the first. It is not possible to positively include hard power sustainers in a normative power framework, unless the normative power (soft one) undertakes a redefinition process (priorities and prerogatives).
What about the economic side of the membership? UK has never been a full user of EU funds because of its productive structure (UK is a service based economy), because of its agriculture (compared to France quota of CAP payments UK do not receive much), but also and mainly because EU has always designed a budget structure to satisfy France and Germany needs, especially after Germany reunification and nowadays it should be a surprise if UK asks for a serious cut of EU budget for the period 2014-2020. As from the EU budget depends most of the other policies, EU has failed once again in developing an attractive framework for UK related to funds utilization. For example, talking about R&D, Germany takes around 50% of the total budget. Why then UK should contribute to the budget? Talking about the CAP, why to contribute if receiving only 9% of the funds (Greece receive 6%) compared to 22% of France? And there would be many more examples to analyze. It is then necessary an appropriate redefinition of EU policies and funds allocation in order to make EU attractive for United Kingdom, but too many old cognitive paradigms are applied to EU policies development. Two questions need to be answered: how to redefine the role of EU external relations? How to redefine EU policies according to present opportunities and constraints? How to make EU an attractive actor in world politics?