United Kingdom–European Union relations
Relations between the European Union (EU) and the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland (UK) date back to the foundation of the European Communities, the European Union's predecessor, in 1957. The United Kingdom was a member state of the European Communities after joining it in 1973. It was a member state of the European Union until it became the first country to voluntarily end its membership on 31 January 2020 after a referendum was held in 2016 which resulted in 51.9% of voters opting to leave. The Brexit withdrawal agreement now plays a significant role in relations between the two entities, especially for Northern Ireland (which continues to apply EU rules relating to goods, VAT in respect of goods, excise, agricultural and fisheries product and electricity, as well as applying the EU customs code and effectively acting as the EU customs border with Great Britain while legally remaining in the UK's customs territory), and during the transition period which lasted until 31 December 2020. Since 1 January 2021 the relations have been mainly governed by the EU–UK Trade and Cooperation Agreement. The United Kingdom borders one European Union member state: Ireland.
|European Union Delegation, London||United Kingdom Mission, Brussels|
|Ambassador João Vale de Almeida||Ambassador Tim Barrow|
|European Union||United Kingdom|
|Population||447,206,135||67,886,004 (2020 estimate)|
|Area||4,324,782 km2 (1,669,808 sq mi)||242,495 km2 (93,628 sq mi)|
|Population Density||115/km2 (300/sq mi)||270.7/km2 (701.1/sq mi)|
|Capital||Brussels (de facto)||London|
|Global cities||Paris, Amsterdam, Milan, Frankfurt, Madrid, Brussels, Warsaw, Stockholm, Vienna, Dublin, Luxembourg, Munich, Lisbon, Prague||London|
|Government||Supranational parliamentary democracy based on the European treaties||Unitary parliamentary constitutional monarchy|
|Current Leader||Council President Charles Michel
Commission President Ursula von der Leyen
|Monarch Elizabeth II
Prime Minister Boris Johnson
|Official languages||24 official languages, of which 3 considered "procedural" (English, French and German)||English (Regional and minority languages: Scots, Ulster Scots, Welsh, Cornish, Scottish Gaelic, Irish)|
|Main Religions||72% Christianity (48% Roman Catholicism, 12% Protestantism,||59.5% Christianity, 25.7% No religion, 4.4% Islam, 1.3% Hinduism, 0.7% Sikhism, 0.4% Judaism, 0.4% Buddhism, 0.4% Other, 7.2% No answer|
|Ethnic groups||Germans (ca. 83 million), French (ca. 67 million),
Italians (ca. 60 million), Spanish (ca. 47 million), Poles (ca. 46 million), Romanians (ca. 16 million), Dutch (ca. 13 million), Greeks (ca. 11 million), Portuguese (ca. 11 million), and others
|87.1% White, 7.0% Asian, 3.0% Black, 2.0% Mixed, 0.9% Other|
|GDP (nominal)||$16.477 trillion, $31,801 per capita||$2.638 trillion, $39,229 per capita|
The United Kingdom's applications to join in 1963 and 1967 were vetoed by the president of France, Charles de Gaulle, who said that "a number of aspects of Britain's economy, from working practices to agriculture" had "made Britain incompatible with Europe" and that Britain harboured a "deep-seated hostility" to any pan-European project. Once de Gaulle had relinquished the French presidency in 1969, the UK made a third and successful application for membership.
Since 1977, both pro- and anti-European views have had majority support at different times, with some dramatic swings between the two camps. In the United Kingdom European Communities membership referendum of 1975, two-thirds of British voters favoured continued EC membership. The highest-ever rejection of membership was in 1980, the first full year of Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher's term of office, with 65% opposed to and 26% in favour of membership. As a member of European Union, the United Kingdom never adopted the use of the euro or joined the Schengen Area. The Schengen agreements allowed citizens of countries in the European Union to travel without border controls.
Following the result of the 2016 United Kingdom European Union membership referendum, when 52 percent of those who voted supported Brexit, the United Kingdom negotiated its withdrawal from the European Union. After the vote, British Prime Minister David Cameron, who supported staying in the EU, resigned. Theresa May became the prime minister after his formal resignation. Although she also supported remaining in the EU, she committed to negotiating Britain's exit. The United Kingdom formally left the bloc on 31 January 2020.
Scotland independence and EU membership
The Scottish Independence Referendum of 2014 was the first occasion the EU was faced with the potential breakup of a member state, and one where a potential newly independent state wished to retain its EU membership. While the UK's withdrawal from the EU also took Scotland out of the EU, the debates in the referendum campaign may inform other future scenarios.
The UK Government's legal advice on the issue was that 'Since the [remainder of the UK] would be the same state as the UK, its EU membership would continue', while speculating that 'On the face of it, Scotland would be required to accede to the EU as a new state, which would require negotiations on the terms of its membership ...', but that 'Scotland's position within the EU is likely to be shaped more by any agreements between the parties than by pre-existing principles of EU law.' Without any formal process for handling the breakup of any member state, the European Commission offered, if requested by a member state, to provide an official view on the EU's position on Scottish EU membership in the event of its independence from the UK. The Scottish Government requested that UK Prime Minister David Cameron place this request, but such a request was not made. Nicola Sturgeon, the then Deputy First Minister of Scotland, said that the Scottish Cabinet did not agree an independent Scotland would have to reapply for EU membership.
The referendum campaigns had differing views:
- Yes Scotland: The "Yes" campaign, led by Blair Jenkins, argued that Scotland would continue as a member state following a Yes vote as Scotland would remain compliant with all EU Principles as outlined in TEU Article 2 and there are no provisions to exclude a state in the existing EU agreements. During the period between a Yes vote and formal independence, the Scottish Government could engage in negotiations, from within the EU, on the terms of their continuing membership in the EU. Several EU heads of state expressed their opinion that this position was reasonable, as did James Crawford, co-author of the UK government's legal advice on the issue. In an interview on BBC Radio, asked if the timescale of 18 months for EU and other treaty organisation was possible, Crawford replied that he felt the timescale was reasonable. However, there was no official comment on this view from the EU Commission. The Scottish Government and the Yes Campaign both declared that continuation of membership in the EU is their preference.
- Better Together: The "No" campaign, led by Alistair Darling, argued that any vote for independence would have automatically placed Scotland out of the EU as a new state, and Scotland would have had to renegotiate entry.
In 2017, exports to the European Union amounted to £274 billion out of £616 billion in total exports for the UK. The proportion of UK export to the European Union has been noted to be in decline, since exports to non-EU countries have increased at a faster rate.
On the European side, according to Eurostat, exports from the EU 27 to the UK have increased from 316 euro billions in 2015 to 319 euro billions in 2019. In the same time, according to Eurostat, imports from the UK to the EU-27 have increased from 184 euro billions in 2015 to 194 euro billions in 2019.
United Kingdom's foreign relations with EU member states (EU27)
Diplomatic relations between UK and EU member states
- Foreign relations of the United Kingdom
- Foreign relations of the European Union
- Post-Brexit United Kingdom relations with the European Union
- Iceland–European Union relations
- Liechtenstein–European Union relations
- Norway–European Union relations
- Greenland–European Union relations
- Gibraltar–Spain border
- Cyprus dispute
- Ireland–NATO relations
- European Union–NATO relations
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- Crawford, James; Boyle, Alan (10 December 2012). "Annex A - Opinion: Referendumon the Independence of Scotland – International Law Aspects" (PDF). p. 67. Retrieved 19 February 2013.
Part I: Executive summary ... 6.1 Since the rUK would be the same state as the UK, its EU membership would continue. Indeed, the EU treaties implicitly preclude ‘automatic’ withdrawal by a state. There might have to be an adjustment to the UK’s terms of membership to reflect its reduction in territory and population, but this could be done without the UK ceasing to be an EU Member State.
- Crawford, James; Boyle, Alan (10 December 2012). "Annex A - Opinion: Referendum on the Independence of Scotland – International Law Aspects" (PDF). p. 67. Retrieved 19 February 2013.
Part I: Executive summary ...6. Within the EU, there is no precedent for what happens when a metropolitan part of a current Member State becomes independent, so it is necessary to speculate. ... 6.2 On the face of it, if Scotland had voted for independence it would have been required to accede to the EU as a new state, which would require negotiations on the terms of its membership, including on the subjects of the UK’s current opt-outs. The EU treaties make no provision for succession to membership. Certain provisions of the EU treaties would require amendment. If Scotland were somehow to become an EU member in its own right automatically, it is not clear how adjustments to the relative positions of Member States could be willed into being without negotiations. Nor would it be clear on what terms it would be a member. 6.3 Some have argued that the rights conferred on individuals by EU citizenship might influence the European Court of Justice (ECJ) to somehow resist this outcome. But this is a matter for speculation and does not have a clear precedent in EU law. It would also require the issue to somehow come before the ECJ, which may be unlikely. 7. In any event, Scotland’s position within the EU is likely to be shaped more by any agreements between the parties than by pre-existing principles of EU law.
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