The Great Debate UK

What European election campaign?


Richard Whitaker- Richard Whitaker is a lecturer in European politics at the University of Leicester, UK. The opinions expressed are his own. -

Europe rarely features highly in European election campaigns in Britain. In the 2004 campaign the word Euro more often than not referred to a football tournament rather than the single currency. And for at least two reasons, we shouldn’t expect European integration to be much discussed.

First, parties have little incentive to campaign on Europe because it features a long way down the list of issues British voters consider important, well behind Prime Minister Gordon Brown’s leadership, expenses, the economy, immigration and crime. Second, to the extent that parties are internally divided on the question of how far Europe should go, they are less likely to push the issue up the agenda.

In the current campaign we might have expected what little talk there was about Europe to cover the Lisbon Treaty on which the Conservatives, in contrast to the two other main parties, have called for a referendum, and the question of whether Britain should remain a member of the EU amid calls from Eurosceptic parties on the right and left, for us to withdraw from the organisation.