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Has British Politics been Europeanised

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Has British Politics been Europeanised?

Before directly addressing the question it is necessary to define the main concept, Europeanisation.  Europeanisation is an analytical concept which is used to “…examine the changes in domestic structures and policies that occur in response to policies and practices institutionalised at the European level.”[1]  It is believed to be the interrelationships between the other states and the process in which “…European rules, mechanisms and collective understandings interact with given domestic structures.”[2]  This clearly illustrates that ‘Europeanisation’ is a gradual process, rather than a dramatic evolution.

There has been much debate about whether the British political system has been Europeanised, and whether it has merged merely into a European political system, rather than maintaining its own stance as a British political system.  As a result, the former political parties that stand today have differing views on this topic.  Furthermore, internationalists and nationalists also maintain differing views.  Internationalists see Britain as an active but in no way a dominant partner in the European institution.  On the other hand, nationalists see Britain as an independent political and economic phenomenon in a global economy.

The essay will initially discuss the factors that have led to the British political system being ‘Europeanised’, and then it will give arguments for and against, and finally concluding the extent of this integration, if any at all.

There are three reasons in particular, which results in the British Political system treating Europe in a delicate and respectable manner, and furthermore holding it in high regards.  

The first factor and arguably the most influential that will be taken into consideration, is Britain’s membership of the European Union.  “By the 1990s, British Politics were increasingly dominated by the question of the European Union.”[3]  The European Union is one of the core influences that have led to this integration.  The composition of the European Union was the result of two world wars that took place due to the rivalry between three European nations.  Therefore, the sole reason for its composition was to resolve the key problems, which is to avoid further conflict in Europe, and the inability of France and Germany to live in harmony.  

Initially Britain was sceptical about joining the Union, as it set out minimum working conditions, and the Conservative Party at the time saw this as jeopardising “…British economic competitiveness, which was based on work flexibility and low wages.”[4] Furthermore, they argue that “…British industry and finance will be constrained by European regulations…”[5] However, on the other hand “Labour agreed with other member states in interpreting the opt-out as an attempt to turn Britain into the sweatshop of Europe.”[6]  While one party felt that membership would be beneficial to British politics, the other held opposing views.

The first step that was taken of merging European countries together was the integration of the economic industries, such as steel and coal.  These particular industries were targeted, as they were at the time the basis of industrial and military power.  The fundamental intention of this integration was to make it difficult for any “…single nations to build a separate military capacity such as had led Germany to the aggressive military policies that had produced war in 1939.”[7] This illustrates the idea that the European Union reduces the autonomy of countries and furthermore, interferes with the governing of the countries.  This consequently results in European countries adjusting their governing system to suit the European Union, and therefore, resulting in them becoming ‘Europeanised’.

The rules and regulations that are undertaken by other institutions in the European Union largely influence the ones in the British Political system, and the majority of the times they are taken on board.  Consequently, the governing of Britain is not merely the result of the party in power at the time, and the British citizens, but also the system of the European Union and its citizens.  This can arguably be seen as a good thing as it provides the British system with an additional institution, which provides further checks and balances on the system.  However, problems can possibly arise, as the British system cannot govern completely independently.  Furthermore, there may be conflict of opinion amongst the institutions, due to differing traditions, values and beliefs.  On the contrary, “…European bodies could now legislate for Britain independently of the government and even against its expressed wishes showed that national sovereignty was being eroded.”[8]

The second factor is with regards to resources.  There is much questioning where resources get allocated and who decides how these resources are distributed.  In the British Political system resource allocation is becoming increasingly a European matter.  The system is one of give and take, which means that Britain pay a large sum to the budget if the European Union, and in return Britain receive large amounts annually in subsidies and grants.  

Finally, the European Union is highly prestigious on a global spectrum as it plays the fundamental role in resource allocation and distribution; therefore, the British political system governs within the guidelines of this, so that the European system can run effectively.

The countries that are part of the European Union have appeared to have much economic success and growth.  However, whether this success and growth is the direct result of economic integration is questionable.  In addition, this did generate some positive energy amongst the countries, and create a vision of a “…single Europe, and created wide public support for their continuing efforts.”[9]  Therefore, it can be said, using this evidence that this is an aspect of British ‘Europeanisation’.

In addition recent treaties give much evidence that “…EU policies now affect many aspects of British economic and social life.”[10]  However, although this is apparent, the citizens of Britain remain rather more concerned about the Westminster government

Membership of the European Union has resulted in much influence on British government, as well as British life. However, there are five major influences, which are the market for goods and services, which is the first and most important area of discussion.  “Membership involved both negative surrender of power by British government and positive acquisition of power by the institutions of the Union.”[11]  An example of this surrender of powers is when Britain gave up “…any right to impose import duties or other restrictions on the flow of goods from other members of this Union.”[12]

However, there are some significant impacts which results from this integration, and this is the positive use of influence of the EU, which intends to create equal competitive condition rights across the Union.  This integration has become stronger since the movement towards a single market in the 1980s.

Next the market for labour, this is an aspect of discussion which illustrates both the positive and negative influence of the EU on both British politics and its legal system.  The negative effect of being part of the EU is that citizens of other member states are able to enter Britain for work purposes.  Additionally, identical entitlements are given to British citizens entering other European countries.  However, on a positive not, the improved working conditions have been the result of the European Union’s jurisdiction.  

The third influence to consider is regional and environmental policies.  This is whereby the EU is very much involved in domestic policy making.  The European Union is the fundamental source of funding when it comes to subsidising poorer regions. Environmental policy is one of the most significant policies made for EU regulations.

Fourthly, the foreign economic policy of Britain is predominantly conducted through the European Union.  For example, due to the EU being the only trading block with common laws and regulations governing trade, it must therefore, make sure that others are keeping in line with these common laws.  Furthermore, the EU makes sure that all is settled in common in the Union.  In addition, the EU makes sure that they are participant in all international negotiations, this enables the EU to regulate that all is conducted to he correct framework.

The final influence is one of foreign diplomacy and defence.  This means that any crisis effecting one of the member states will have a ripple effect on the Union.  Therefore, it has been said to be ideal to have a common foreign defence and security policy.   As a result, the Union deeply penetrates its views in policy making sphere of Britain.  Therefore it is inevitable and foreseeable that European values will be penetrated into the British political system, due to the powerful role that the EU maintains in policy making.

There are three means of EU power and influence in which effect the British political system.  These three formal instruments that are used are treaties, legislation and court rulings.

Treaties explain the legal obligations, and make sure that they are accepted.  Furthermore, the creation of these treaties enables the British to trade independently throughout the Union.  Furthermore, it allows any British citizen to settle in any other member state.  If these treaties are breached, then the EU has enough power and therefore is able to punish those who are in breach of these regulations.  There have been cases in which British firms have been heavily fined for undermining the Union’s competition policy.  

Legislation on the other hand is in place to regulate and ensure “…parity of competitive conditions in the different industries and sectors across the nations of the Union.”[13]  Legislation and the application of it, is highly significant, when stances are to be made.  The single market depended heavily on the passing of legislation.  The most control the British Parliament have over EU legislation, “…is to exert control over the British government’s negotiating position within the European bodies.”[14]  This shows that Britain decreased its autonomy, as a result of this membership.  The House of Commons can review and look over EU legislation, however, they have limited powers on the influence and impact they have on adjustments and alterations.

Court rulings are a vital source of law, as legislation itself is not solely competent to do fulfil this role, as “No legislation ever covers all eventualities.  The European Court of Justice is the highest Supreme Court in Europe and holds precedent over any other court in Europe and therefore the ruling and decision made in this court is usually ultimate.  This court maintains much power and therefore and as a result the British courts and political system must keep in line with this.   The European Commission has “…direct power to prosecute and fire firms that break EU competition regulations.”[15]  This again illustrates the monopoly that the EU maintains over the British government and other member states, and as a result forces them to adopt these views.

In summary, we can see from the evidence and material presented that Britain has become ‘Europeanised’, but Britain does also have much influence on the way that Europe is governed.  Furthermore, the fact that Britain has managed to keep its own currency and refused to adopt the single European currency the Euro, illustrates that Britain does have a lot of control over its country, citizens and economy.  It is said that Britain will adopt the single currency once it passes five economic competency tests, however, the ruling on these tests have not been outlined.  

There are three significant areas, however, that show that Britain has made a progressive move towards ‘Europeanization’, after becoming a member of the European Union for several decades, these are, economic, process of government and the political system.

The following quote sums up the idea that Britain has not dramatically adopted European ideas and values, but it has been a gradual process; “Europeanisation is a process rather than a final product.”[16]  This refers to the changes that have taken place in Britain that have been influenced by the EU, and furthermore, the changes that are still in progress, evolving and adapting.

The aspect of economic Europeanisation is the most obvious, visual and measurable of the three areas of discussion.  Since Britain joined the EU, the British economy has become progressively intertwined with the economies of other member states of the Union.  A great example of this would be that; “…nearly 60% of UK exports now go to another member economy of the European Union.”[17]

A great example of economics in Britain being europeanised is that the rules governing the conduct of economic life are becoming standardised across Europe.  These range from big issues such as the regulation of competition and the recognition of trade unions, to even small things such as the packaging of products.

The second topic which illustrates the Europeanisation is the process of government, which looks at the growing fusion of the British government and the European Union.  Furthermore, the extent to which the activities of the British government involve participating in the business of governing the European Union.

The final aspect of Europeanisation is the political system which talks about the interpenetration of the political system with the European Union.  The EU influences much of the tactics and strategies that Britain undertake, and furthermore, ones that they should adopt due to Britain’s positioning as a member of the Union.  The Union itself is highly present within Britain, such as it plays a predominant role in the “…allocation of resources and intervening in the terms of the political argument.”[18]

However, this argument cannot be seen from one spectrum, because as the European Union plays an important role in British politics and has influenced its progression, Britain as mentioned earlier does play an influential role on a European level.  Therefore it can be said clearly from the evidence put forward that British politics is progressively becoming more and more Europeanised, however, the much controversy lies at whether this is Europeanisation is a positive or negative thing upon the British economy, citizens, government and politics and whether excessive amounts of this transmission will have detrimental effects.  One major criticism that can be made about the European Union is the fact that there is uneven rule implementation in alternate member states; this could possible lead to the rise of ‘popular resentment.’

In addition, “…internationalists accept the interdependence of Britain with Europe and the rest of the world, and adopt an essentially pragmatic stance towards the increasing power of super-national institutions…they agree with them if they bring concrete benefits.”[19]  On the contrary, Euro-sceptics believe that “…any attempt to strengthen EU institutions is a direct affront to Parliamentary sovereignty and must be resisted at every turn.”[20]  This clearly states that there are clearly two differing arguments to the debate, one that increasing EU intervention is acceptable so long as Britain benefits from it, however, the other states that it is important to maintain this clear division, otherwise is will grow to threaten the existing British political order.

Some political writers make a clear division and state that in “…spite of spreading integration, membership of the EU has little impact on the way government actually works in Britain.”[21] This concisely provides a counter argument.  The reason justify this point is that the “…Union has no direct administration of its own within member states.”[22]  This shows that although the EU is powerful, it is not completely autonomous.

It is clear that there are advantages and disadvantages of the intervention of Europe in British Politics, and therefore, leading to it being Europeanised.  It is said that Europe is stronger due to the fact that each nation maintains its own norms, values, customs, traditions and identity.  However, there is a fear amongst many that furthermore intervention will ultimately lead to the domination on British Politics rather than Britain merely shifting their value system.

Ultimately, it is held that the “…British industry and finance will be constrained by European regulations.”[23]  However, it is important to note that it is not a mere one way, top-down process.  Any imports that come from Europe are usually modified, so that they fit in to the social structure of Britain, otherwise, this would cause controversy, as the citizens would see it as a mere imposed export, ignorant of their cultural values.

Student Number: EL068

British Political Systems.

Has British Politics been Europeanised?

[1] Bruno Coppieters et al, Europenaization and Conflict Resolution.  Case Studies from the European Periphery, Page 24.  Academia Press 2004

[2] Bruno Coppieters et al, Europenaization and Conflict Resolution.  Case Studies from the European Periphery, Page 25.  Academia Press 2004

[3] The New British Politics.  Ian Budge, Ivor Crewe, David McKay, Ken Newton. (1998) Page 89

[4] Politics and Governance in the UK, Michael Moran, Pelgrave Macmillan (2005). Page 91

[5] New British Politics.  Ian Budge, Ivor Crewe, David McKay, Ken Newton. (1998) Page 115

[6] New British Politics.  Ian Budge, Ivor Crewe, David McKay, Ken Newton. (1998) Third Edition. Page 89

[7] Politics and Governance in the UK, Michael Moran, Pelgrave Macmillan (2005). Page 91

[8] New British Politics.  Ian Budge, Ivor Crewe, David McKay, Ken Newton. (1998) Third Edition. Page 89

[9]  Politics and Governance in the UK, Michael Moran, Pelgrave Macmillan (2005). Page 93

[10] Politics and Governance in the UK, Michael Moran, Pelgrave Macmillan (2005). Page 93

[11] Politics and Governance in the UK, Michael Moran, Pelgrave Macmillan (2005). Page 95

[12] Politics and Governance in the UK, Michael Moran, Pelgrave Macmillan (2005). Page 95

[13] Politics and Governance in the UK, Michael Moran, Pelgrave Macmillan (2005). Page 97

[14] New British Politics. Ian Budge, Ivor Crewe, David McKay, Ken Newton.(1998)Third Edition. Page 207

[15] Politics and Governance in the UK, Michael Moran, Pelgrave Macmillan (2005). Page 98

[16] Europeanisation and Conflict Resolution.  Bruno Coppieters et al. Academia Press (2004). Page 21

[17] New British Politics. Ian Budge, Ivor Crewe, David McKay, Ken Newton.(1998)Third Edition. Page 192

[18] Politics and Governance in the UK, Michael Moran, Pelgrave Macmillan (2005). Page 102

[19] New British Politics. Ian Budge, Ivor Crewe, David McKay, Ken Newton.(1998)Third Edition. Page 192

[20] New British Politics. Ian Budge, Ivor Crewe, David McKay, Ken Newton.(1998)Third Edition. Page 192

[21] New British Politics.  Ian Budge, Ivor Crewe, David McKay, Ken Newton. (1998) Page 115

[22] New British Politics.  Ian Budge, Ivor Crewe, David McKay, Ken Newton. (1998) Page 115

[23] New British Politics. Ian Budge, Ivor Crewe, David McKay, Ken Newton.(1998). Page 115

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