Thursday, January 29, 2015

Piece for UACES: Europe's Brexit Question

Focusing on what a Brexit could mean for Britain overlooks the more important question of what it could mean for Europe.

Scan any newspaper article, click on any blog post or read any academic paper on the subject of Britain leaving the EU and you’ll find the focus is on what it would mean for Britain and whether or not it will happen. This seems logical enough, but it leaves a gaping hole in the analysis.

Discussing a Brexit should also be a discussion about Europe and what European integration would mean if the people of one of the largest European states – a state that is a core part of European identity, politics, economics, culture and power – democratically voted to quit the leading organisation for pan-European cooperation and unity. That would not be an insignificant moment in the history of the EU.

To continue reading the piece please following this link:

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Latest post for E!Sharp: Can an in-out referendum solve the European question in British politics?

The prospect of an in-out referendum is one we all know will figure in the UK’s forthcoming general election. The average British voter might care little for the nuances of EU membership, or even say the issue ranks high in their election priorities. But it weaves itself into so many issues that we can expect it to be up there in the headlines, especially with the Conservatives, Labour, Liberal Democrats and UKIP all committed – in varying ways – to holding an in-out referendum.
It is hoped that a referendum can allow the British people to once and for all solve the question of Britain’s commitment to Europe, providing a cathartic, decisive decision whether it be to stay or go. Given such expectations we need to take a step back and realise that all sides – both Eurosceptics and pro-Europeans – risk expecting too much of a referendum.
The European question is a multifaceted one driven primarily by Britain’s domestic politics. It was for this reason that when I recently wrote an article on this topic for International Affairs, the Chatham House journal, I gave it the title ‘To be or not to be in Europe: is that the question?’ In short: no. Britain’s European question is connected to a range of issues – constitutional change, changing identities, political economy, fragmenting party politics, responses to globalisation and the changing geopolitics of Europe – not simply whether Britain wants to be formally in or out of the EU.
To continue reading the piece please follow this link

Thursday, January 15, 2015

To be or not to be in Europe: is that the question? Britain's European question and an in/out referendum.

My latest piece - out today in International Affairs - on UK-EU relations explaining why a referendum will not solve the European question in British politics. Link here.

Oliver, Tim (2015) 'To be or not to be in Europe: is that the question? Britain's European question an an in/out referendum', International AffairsVol. 91, No. 1, pp 77–91.


The idea of holding an in/out referendum on Britain's membership of the European Union has increasingly become a norm of British politics, an act seen as a necessary step for the country to answer what David Cameron described as the ‘European question in British politics’. A referendum, it is hoped, will cleanse British politics of a poisonous debate about Europe and democratically sanction a new stable UK–EU relationship, whether the UK stays in or leaves. Such hopes expect more of a referendum than it can provide. The European question is a multifaceted one and whatever the result of a referendum it is unlikely to address underlying questions that will continue to cause problems for UK–EU relations and Britain's European debate. A referendum can be a step forward in better managing the relationship and debate, but it is only that: a single step, after which further steps will be needed. Coming to terms with the European question and bringing stability to Britain's relations with the EU—whether in or outside the EU—will require comprehensive, longer-term changes which a referendum can help trigger but in no way guarantee.

Monday, January 12, 2015

Speaking event next week in Brussels.

Next week I'm speaking at a UACES run event in Brussels on the possible implications for the EU and Europe of a British exit. Details below and can be found here.

An EU without Britain: a Lesser or Stronger Europe?

Date(s) - 20/01/2015
6:00 pm - 7:30 pm
Location The Centre, 2nd Floor
The Centre and the University Association of Contemporary European Studies (UACES) invite you to a presentation and panel debate.
A Brexit could profoundly change the EU, Europe’s geopolitics, transatlantic relations and the study of European integration. While a British withdrawal is not inevitable, the possibility has increased and depends not only on developments in Britain but on how the rest of the EU responds to its ‘British question’. Dr Tim Oliver, lecturer at the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst, argues that very little analysis exists of what a Brexit could mean for the EU and what choices the EU faces. Britain’s own Brexit debate is equally oblivious to the wider implications of Britain leaving the EU.
Is a renegotiated relationship with the UK less acceptable than a Brexit? Should the EU fear or focus on the possibility of a Brexit? Can Britain use a Brexit as leverage to secure a renegotiation? Should the EU rule out a new treaty out of fear it could trigger an in-out referendum and Brexit? How might a Brexit change the geopolitics of Europe?
Dr Tim Oliver will present his research on the topic, followed by a panel discussion with:
  • György Schöpflin MEP, Member of the European Parliament Committee on Constitutional Affairs
  • Fabian Zuleeg, Chief Executive Officer at the European Policy Centre