Staff and students from the Centre for European Studies (CEFEUS) took part in an online seminar on Tuesday evening (19th April) to discuss the upcoming in/out referendum on Britain’s membership of the European Union (EU). The event was hosted by the University of Pittsburgh’s University Centre for International Studies and featured an expert panel of European politics scholars. Featuring alongside CEFEUS Director Dr Amelia Hadfield were Dr Tim Oliver (LSE), Professor Michelle Egan (American University), and Professor Alan Sked (LSE, and founder and former member of UKIP).
Dr Hadfield spoke on the question of foreign policy, arguing that the debate had been conducted principally over questions of economic policy, and largely ignored the more important strategic questions about Britain’s role in Europe (both past and present) and the effects of a Brexit on questions of national security and prestige. The following debate touched on a broad range of issues affected by a potential Brexit, including the environment, immigration, economic policy and transatlantic relations. The panellists also discussed the politics of the referendum, including the success of Cameron’s ‘deal’ with the EU, the effects of British national identity, and the response associated with different political parties and demographics.
Disagreement arose not only around the best ways of studying and understanding the politics surrounding the referendum, but also on the question of which option would be best for Britain. Professor Sked argued that the referendum offered a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for Britons to throw-off the shackles of the unelected Brussels-based elite, while Dr Hadfield defended Britain’s membership by noting the contribution made by the EU to the security, prosperity and cosmopolitan-ethos of the UK. Following a heated debate, questions were taken from the audience, after which the participants thanked one another for the opportunity to discuss such a timely event and bade their farewells.