50 years Arguing with Neighbours: The UK's Complex Relationship with the European Union

Wesemann, Anne (2020). 50 years Arguing with Neighbours: The UK's Complex Relationship with the European Union. In: Claydon, Lisa; Derry, Caroline and Ajevski, Marjan eds. Law in Motion: 50 years of Legal Change. The Open University Law School, pp. 37–51.

URL: http://www.open.ac.uk/blogs/50YearsOfLaw/?p=210


1969 determined the UK's fate as an European Union (EU) Member State. Finally, with the 'cock' who crowed 'NON' twice making way, the route was clear for the UK to join the then European Community. The UK became a Member State in 1973 but it was neither smooth sailing to get to that point nor has it been since. The early years of membership were marked by doubts over the nature of the developing communities and the role the UK would be playing in that development were it to leave or remain. This led to a first UK referendum in 1975 on membership which confirmed the UK government's decision to join. Forty-one years later, a second referendum decided the UK should leave and paved the way to a slow exit. In between lay numerous economic crisis and domestic as well as international political challenges.
As the last full year of UK EU Membership, 2019 marks an end to a struggling 'ever closer' relationship. This chapter will shed some light on the 50 years of struggle between the what is now the European Union and the UK. It will draw on historical, political, economic and legal perspectives in examining the relationship. It will present an overview of the humble beginnings of the EU and the UK's role in that, and the relationship's stormy youth, when the world faced a global economic crisis. This chapter will examine whether the UK was being led or was leading in key matters of EU policy and law; in doing so it will consider arguments around sovereignty, or rather what there was to gain back after 2019. Lastly, it will in its conclusions draw from the evidence of the past 50 years to imagine how the challenges of the past can be overcome to enable a functioning relationship in the 50 years ahead.

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