‘The devil’s in the detail’: Independent readers give their verdict on UK’s chance to strengthen ties with EU

Have your say: The opportunity for the UK to rejoin the EU under an ‘associate membership’ has sparked debate among Independent readers

The Independent
Thursday 02 November 2023 14:54 GMT

Plans to offer Britain and other European countries “associate membership” of the EU have got Independent readers talking.

We asked you what you thought of a blueprint, tabled by France and Germany, creating four new tiers within the bloc, with the most aligned states forming an “inner circle”.

In what will be seen as an olive branch, a new outer tier of “associate membership” would be open to the UK, laying the ground for a closer economic relationship.

Unsurprisingly, the move that could rebuild the UK’s ties with the EU following Brexit has been deeply controversial and has sparked debate among our registered community.

Independent readers were largely positive in their reaction to the news. However, while Sarge said “in the absence of a full rejoin” associate membership of the EU “would be a very good move,” not everyone was immediately sold on strengthening ties right away.

Here’s what our readers had to say:

‘We need the EU and the EU needs us’

Closer ties with our nearest allies and improved trade with them is only going to be a good thing.


‘Let’s have a referendum’

We fell out without thinking, we should get back in, the majority of the country wants it. The democratic will of the people is to rejoin, don’t believe it? Let’s have a referendum


‘Massive mistake’

Certainly Brexit was a massive mistake, making a complex question a simplistic yes no was doomed to give a poorly considered answer. The EU is far from perfect but like democracy it is the least worse option. It is inevitable that the UK will go back at some point, cap in hand. Probably not in my lifetime but the current associate membership idea would be a huge step in the right direction.


‘No experiment is a failure’

The benefit of Brexit is that it has been proved that there are no benefits. If Remain had won the referendum, we’d still be hearing how wonderful life would be outside the dreadful EU. Can’t happen now. We imposed economic sanctions on ourselves. We must overcome the final obstacle: people who are unable to admit they got it wrong.


‘The evidence is all around us’

Of course we should take every opportunity to negotiate a closer and more amicable relationship with the EU. It appears that two thirds of the population now recognise that leaving was a terrible mistake, including a substantial proportion of those who voted to leave. The evidence is all around us: shortages of myriad items, including medicines; staff shortages in hospitals and hospitality; difficulties in travelling and so on.

Our departure also damaged the EU (although nothing like as much as it has damaged us) and so we have a lot of ground to make up in convincing the EU of our sincerity. On the other hand, the mess leaving has caused in this country has served as a warning to other European countries that leaving is not a good idea.


‘My preferred option is straight EEA membership’

Before the next general election, one of either Lib Dem or Labour will go public with an official stance on taking the UK back into the single market. And the party which does that will decide on what the next government looks like, because by the time of the next election the electorate will be drawn to plausible ways to mitigate Brexit. My preferred option is straight EEA membership. And don’t quote anybody saying that Norway wouldn’t allow it, they absolutely would. I say like Stephen Fry, everybody agrees with me, but some public figures don’t want to admit it in the media.


‘We should rejoin, but cautiously and sensibly’

Just as too many ignored the facts on the ground when deciding to leave, we mustn’t do the same in reverse. The Eurozone we left is a bit different to the one we want to rejoin. German manufacturing productivity is declining, France is losing its colonial income and there’s the energy crisis, the rise of the far right and other internal divisions. Plus, not enough has been done to change the nation’s mindset toward European type policy, so the rabid right and their media barons will whine and carp until we end up back with the Tories in a future election. Ignorant hotheadedness got us into this mess, let’s get out of it using considered factual rationale not electioneering one-upmanship.


‘The devil will be in the detail’

As always the devil will be in the detail. What do we have to put in, what do we get back, what do we have to give up and how much will it cost? Certainly closer liason with Europe makes sense, but not at the expense of surrendering our automony to Brussels. In particular not at the expense of opening our boarders to all and sundry.


‘It is important to get the population better informed’

I voted remain but it is important to get the population better informed about what the EU is and how it works and how decisions are agreed. Most UK populists have treated the EU as a bogeyman . It is more important to get an understanding about what we and they stand for rather than just conceding defeat in the Tory Brexit project.


‘Colossal swindle’

The concept of the EU is outdated and traditionally the left dismissed it as a protectionist racket. The future of the EU is by no means certain as the one size fits all as approach suits few countries. We are better off out of this colossal swindle.

Samuel Smith

‘The EU is far too big and unwieldly’

It has a major democratic deficit at its heart, which will grow as it enlarges. Democracy for the people should not be sacrificed on the altar of commerce run by a bunch of protectionists. We are extremely different peoples and quite frankly most of the countries only give lip service true liberal democracy and democratic values. It quickly breaks down when they are under stress - and those stresses will grow as countries feel that their national interests are not being represented, given the dilution in sovereignty. EU countries should be grouped like a venn diagram allowing countries that belong in one group to have closer commercial ties with the groups in the areas where they overlap. In hope rather than expectation each country would be in the group that freedom of speech and expression and rule of law are paramount. On this one, I even fear for the UK.


‘Reform and change would be the best indication’

I voted to remain. But, having left we heard the EU promise all sorts of reforms to allay other countries concerns about the centralisation of power within the commission. Whilst I would have said that it would have been easier the reform the EU from inside the organisation, now we are outside I would not advocate re-joining or developing closer ties until the EU lives up to its promises seriously looks at its move to a Brussels centric government.


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