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Both Britain and the EU Would Be Happier if They Got Divorced

Britain and the EU – isn’t it time we filed for divorce? Should we call it a day? Or accept that the EU is our future, warts and all?

Some people just can’t bring themselves to acknowledge that a relationship is over. Finished. Unsalvageable. David Cameron, for instance. His long awaited speech on Europe has been one big exercise in denial. Yes, we should stay married to Europe, he says, because we can now renegotiate our wedding vows and get the EU to do things our way. Who is he kidding? If it were so easy to pick ‘n mix what we want from Brussels, wolfing down all the soft-centred goodies and rejecting the nutty ones, wouldn’t every member state do the same? That would be a certain recipe for a 27-speed Europe and why on earth would Brussels agree to that? After the euro crisis, Brussels is hell-bent on tightening the rules not loosening them. So once you discard the new wrapper Cameron is trying to put around a thorny old problem, the reality re-emerges in all its starkness: we can’t live under the old rules – Cameron himself is clear about that – and the new rules will entail an even greater loss of sovereignty. So time for divorce.

But do we really want to throw away all we have achieved in the post-war decades – years of painstaking negotiations which have led to a peaceful and prosperous Europe? Not only has the EU enhanced trade between its members – to Britain’s benefit as much as the others – it has also provided Europe with a real voice in the world. Of course it’s far from perfect. That’s why it needs to be reformed not rejected. And of course it involves some loss of sovereignty: in a globalised world that’s inevitable. But only political juveniles hanker after a lost world of unfettered sovereignty. Time to be grown up and accept that the EU is our future, warts and all.

So which side of the argument should we heed? This is the biggest national issue of our time: Britain’s destiny is at stake.


For the motion

Nigel Farage

Former leader of UKIP (2006-2009)

Leader of UKIP from 2006-2009, and again from 2010 until his resignation in the aftermath of the EU referendum. As leader of UKIP, Nigel was a major figure in the campaign to leave the European Union.

Daniel Hannan

Former Conservative MEP for South East England

Former Conservative Member of the European Parliament for South East England, who was a prominent campaigner for Brexit. He is a prolific journalist and author of nine books, including A Doomed Marriage: Britain and Europe.
Against the motion

Katinka Barysch


Katinka Barysch is deputy director of the Centre for European Reform. The CER is an independent London-based think-tank that seeks to make the EU work better and strengthen its role in the world. It is cross-party and privately financed. She previously worked as an analyst at the Economist Intelligence Unit and as a consultant in Brussels, and is a member of the advisory boards of FINCA, a micro-finance charity, and the Official Monetary and Financial Institutions Forum (OMFIF).

Leon Brittan

Politician and barrister

Leon Brittan was a former Conservative Home Secretary and Vice President of the European Commission., who also variously served as Minister of State at the Home Office, Chief Secretary to the Treasury, Home Secretary, and Secretary of State for Trade and Industry. Brittan was awarded a Life Peerage in the Millennium New Year Honours List, and appointed a Deputy Lieutenant for North Yorkshire in 2001.

Nik Gowing

Presenter, BBC World News

Nik Gowing has been a main presenter for the BBC’s international 24-hour news channel BBC World News, since 1996, where he presents The Hub with Nik Gowing, BBC World Debates, Dateline London and location coverage. For 18 years he worked at ITN where he was bureau chief in Rome and Warsaw, and Diplomatic Editor for Channel Four News (1988-1996).