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Staying in: A reform plan for Britain and Europe

democracy, economy, Europe

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Author(s):  Will Straw
Published date:  19 Nov 2012
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This report calls for a referendum on Britain’s membership of the EU that offers the British people a straight 'in-or-out' question. It advocates a role for Britain in reforming EU institutions, as part of a strong wider pro-Europe campaign, and proposes a renegotiated EU budget focused on generating economic growth.

'Predicated on a principled and constructive case for Europe'
Guardian leader

'IPPR makes a compelling and to my mind unanswerable constitutional case for pro-Europeans to support an in/out referendum to anchor Britain more firmly in the European Union'
– Vernon Bogdanor, professor of government, King's College London, and author The New British Constitution (2009) and The Coalition and the Constitution (2011)

'An important and creative contribution to the debate about how Britain should get the most out of its EU membership'
– Phillip Souta, director of Business for New Europe

'A substantial piece of work which rightly concludes that the EU status quo isn’t an option, and provides thought-provoking ideas for how to reform the EU'
– Mats Persson, director of Open Europe

Opinion polls and IPPR's original research with focus groups in London and Macclesfield repeated underscore the level of antipathy and scepticism the British public has for the EU and the UK's continued membership of that continental club. With the eurozone crisis yet to reach a stable resolution and EU budget negotiations causing headaches in Britain and around Europe, change is inevitable. At some point, a referendum on changes to the European settlement will be required in the UK – this report argues that that referendum should be embraced by the major political parties and focused on the core question of Britain's membership of the EU, rather than any particular point of treaty change.

A simple 'in/out' referendum would provide an opportunity for British pro-Europeans to mount the positive case for membership of and engagement with Europe. This report highlights major arguments in favour of 'staying in', on geopolitical, economic and cultural grounds.

In making a positive case, however, pro-Europeans must admit that the EU has been beset by incompetence and scandal of its own making. A reform agenda for the EU is urgently needed, and this should be predicated on growth and democracy. This report proposes:

  • a 'grand bargain' on the EU budget, with the UK offering to hand back its EU rebate in return for a smaller overall EU budget and reforms to the common agriculture payments (CAP) and structural funds
  • an alternative EU budget, focused on areas designed to boost growth and support struggling economies
  • a new approach to European legislation and regulation
  • a tighter focus for Europe on areas where collective action is effective and widely supported, such as to tackle climate change, organised crime and terrorism, protectionism, and irregular migration.

To this end, IPPR is conducting a series of projects and events on the future of Europe.

A series of public events were supported by the European Commission Representation in the UK. A stand alone event was supported by the Institute of European Democrats. Our ‘Rethinking Europe’ project which culminated with the ‘Staying In’ report was supported by the Foundation for European Progressive Studies.


Our people

Will Straw, Associate Director for Climate Change, Energy and Transport


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