EU: Sticking together. For now.
As somebody who is somewhat Eurosceptic it might seem odd that I write this article with the title that now is not the time for the United Kingdom to withdraw or consider withdrawing from the European Union. With the eurozone continuing to remain incredibly fragile following the global economic downturn the world economy needs tough action from EU countries. Failure to agree on the necessary tough action will result in millions more unemployed and falling below the poverty line.
With hundreds of billions of euros in bailouts and loans at stake it is clear that there needs to be action to stabilise the eurozone and get the crisis under control.
I believe that Britain's relationship with the EU does need reforming and modernising as the last time the British electorate had the opportunity to vote on the EU was in 1972 when the referendum was held on whether Britain should join the then European Economic Community. Of course the EEC and EU have dramatically changed since the 1970s and in those last 40 years the institution has become completely out of touch with the people, which is likely to be the reason why a poll carried out for the European Commission's Representation in the UK group found that 82% of people interviewed in the UK said they knew nothing or very little about what the EU was for. I believe that Britain should negotiate repatriating powers back from Europe, but it is a question of when these negations should take place.
While Brits may well be entitled to an in/out EU referendum - and that is something that all three main parties in Westminster have agreed to in due course - no referendum should take place until the economic crisis sweeping Europe has stabilised. Britain needs to remain a key player in trying to prevent the Eurocrisis from worsening. The priority for Britain and Europe has to be securing growth and stability rather than negotiating Britain's possible withdrawal.
The euro was destined to fail from the start because countries such as Germany and Greece have completely different economies. The rules were significantly relaxed to allow Greece to join the Euro and that gamble is now backfiring as hundreds of billions of euros are being pumped into failing countries. As Greece, Spain and Portugal turn to more right wing parties the concern will be that those countries which have billions in loans and financial injections will withdraw from the eurozone and will remain unable to repay the loans that they have had.
David Cameron seems to think that it is acceptable to threaten the EU that the UK will leave unless negotiations take place, when that is wrong. As the German Chancellor Angela Merkel warned in her New Year message, the crisis is far from over, which is why Mr Cameron and Britain need to work with the EU rather than against it.
Writing in the Guardian the former EU commissioner Peter Mandelson has rightly criticised Prime Minister David Cameron's attitude and warned: "The signal it sends to the world is that we are on our way out of the European single market and that those who invest in Britain in order to trade in that market should think again."
We are not likely to see strong economic growth for at least the next seven years. some senior economists have warned and if that means Britain remains a member of the EU until then so be it. David Cameron and whoever is the British prime minister in the next parliament should focus and aim for growth, ensure investment in new industry and offer real help to businesses struggling in this economic downturn.
Tom Scholes-Fogg is a politicial activist
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