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Explainer: How Would Possible British Exit Affect EU Foreign Policy?

British Prime Minister David Cameron said his government will offer an "in-or-out" referendum after it renegotiates the terms of its relationship with the EU.
British Prime Minister David Cameron said his government will offer an "in-or-out" referendum after it renegotiates the terms of its relationship with the EU.

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British Prime Minister David Cameron, in a long-awaited speech on the European Union, has promised British voters the choice of whether to quit the EU -- if his party wins the next general election. Cameron said his government will offer an "in-or-out" referendum after it renegotiates the terms of its relationship with the bloc.

RFE/RL's Brussels correspondent Rikard Jozwiak looks at how a possible "Brexit" -- or even a looser relationship between Britain and the EU -- might affect the bloc's enlargement and foreign policy.

What would EU's foreign policy look like without Britain?

Most likely a bit more insular and much less global. Britain is the top military spender in the EU and has the biggest diplomatic corps among the member states. Stefan Lehne of Carnegie Europe points out that the EU would lose out in almost every aspect.

"The departure would be a huge loss for the European Union," Lehne says. "I think we would be weaker in just about every sense of the word. In a military sense, in the diplomatic sense, in terms of our economic power in the world. So it could be quite a tragic loss for the European Union."

How would the EU's enlargement policy in the Western Balkans be affected?

Britain sees EU enlargement as a way to stabilize the neighborhood and expand the EU single market already awash with British products.

Jana Kobzova of the European Council of Foreign Relations (ECFR) notes that although Britain hasn't always been a driving force in the Western Balkans, it has been an important ally.

"It is one thing when Slovakia is arguing for the Western Balkans, for a specific country there to be part of the EU," Kobzova says. "And it is quite another [issue] when Britain says the same thing."

There is, therefore, a big risk that after Croatia joins in July that the EU enlargement door will be all but shut for years to come. True, Germany pays lip-service to the idea of the countries in the Western Balkans joining the club. But it has so far been too preoccupied with economic crisis management to put pressure on Greece into solving a long-running naming dispute blocking Macedonian entry or to cajole the five EU member states that don't recognize Kosovo to do so.

What about the countries in the EU's Eastern Neighborhood?

If the EU keeps its official commitment to bring in the former Yugoslav republics, the door would be firmly boarded up for EU neighbors to the east.

Rosa Balfour from the Brussels-based European Policy Centre (EPC) says that countries such as Georgia, Moldova, and Ukraine would lose an important voice in Brussels.

"These countries want a prospect for [EU] accession and Paris and Berlin are not willing to grant that prospect of accession," Balfour says. "Without Britain, you have lost a heavyweight, shall we say, in favor of having an open-door policy. I would say the prospects are pretty bleak."

Would the EU be friendlier toward Russia if Britain wasn't at the table?

Possibly. France and Germany, but also other big EU countries such as Spain and Italy, are happy to strike deals with Russia on energy issues without asking too many questions. Without Britain, the other camp of countries that usually prods Moscow on thornier issues would lose a champion, says Kobzova. 

"Britain was among the countries that put emphasis not only on the sort of material benefits of the cooperation with Russia but was also looking into the kind of human rights and democracy side of things," she says, "arguing that the problems that Russia has when it comes to corruption, lack of governance, and so on should be of concern to the European Union, which some other countries had not [argued]."

Could a possible "Brexit" have any positive effects on the EU's foreign policy?

There is a distant chance that the EU might become a more coherent foreign policy actor and achieve what many Euro-federalists have dreamt of: a single EU representation at international bodies such as the UN Security Council. Balfour points out that there is a provision in the EU's legal framework that entered into force in late 2009.

"The Lisbon Treaty itself foresaw that the EU would search for a single representation in international organizations," Balfour says. "This has not happened because of the obstructionism of the British position since the entry into force of the Lisbon Treaty. And in many cases that has been to the detriment of the EU's standing in various international organizations. This would probably change if Britain were to leave."
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Comment Sorting
by: Eugenio from: Vienna
January 23, 2013 16:15
Leaving the EU will not imply leaving Europe: just look at Switerland or Norway. None of the two countries ever joined the EU and in these days of the never-ending Euro-crisis, ever higher unemployment in most EU member states, ever more economic stagnation both of the above-mentioned nations have plenty of reasons to be happy for having never joined the bankrupt EU.
The sooner the people of the UK make a decisive step and leave the Community of Bankrupt States of Europe, the faster the final demise of this disfunctional union will occur.

by: Eugenio from: Vienna
January 24, 2013 10:39
And while the UK is preparing to leave the European Union of Bankrupt States, the latest economic figures demonstrate why Euro-enthusiam is kind of on the retreat all over the continent: In the fifth biggest EU economy SPAIN the unemployment level is reported to have reached 26,2 % at the end of the year 2012 - 5.965.400 people without work in a country with a population of some 40 mln. Thank you, Europe! Thank you, Frau Merkel!
In Response

by: peter from: ottawa
January 24, 2013 12:22
Eugenio aka Evgeny , you can come out from hiding under your outhouse, its not the end of the world nor is the sky falling , its only a recession just like 2008-09, 2000-01, mid 1990s, early 80s, early 70s, ect, take a course in macro-economics and educate yourself in reality. The Euro is still worth more than all the other currencies combined so chill out and keep taking your medication. Have a nice day.
In Response

by: Eugenio from: Vienna
January 24, 2013 16:48
Well, Peter, your advice to "keep taking medication" might bring quite of few pensioners here in the EU in a yet deeper depression, given that an increasing number of national govts (Greece, Spain etc) have slashed their support for medication for this societal groups significantly over the last 4 years. So, now all those people who have spent their lives living - like yourself - in an illusion that "the sky will never fall" on the heads of those who are "happy" enough to live in the "First World" are VERY disappointed, cannot afford any medication at all, and instead go to demonstrate on the streets of just SO MANY European cities against their govts. It's the kind of "new European therapy" for those pensioners who can not afford medication any longer :-).
As far as your claim that what is going on in Europe today is "only a recession just like" so many others - it is just WRONG, Peter. Just to remind you of something you probably never knew: the economy of GREECE, for example, is in a recession for the FIFTH (!!!) consecutive year already (and Greece is no exception in this respect!), and the country has lost about 25 (!!!) % of the national GDP over this period of time.
So, if there is one recession that the current one is similar to, it is definitely, the Great Depression of the 1930s and the current one will have political consequences similar in their scope to those that the Great Depression has had on the world some 80 years ago.
Cheers from Vienna, Peter, and please do continue eduating us all in economics :-).

by: vn from: Belgrade
January 24, 2013 11:55
Just out of curiosity. Having in mind the imminent splitting of GB into Scotland and the rest of the UK, and the desire of Scotland (holding most of nuclear weapons in its territory) to join the EU in the fast track manner, where is then the actual secession of England? Perhaps they would be kind enough as to secede from Northern Ireland, or is it a no? Or leave the territory of Serbia alone?
In Response

by: Eugenio from: Vienna
January 24, 2013 16:51
This is the irony of history, VN: the EU has been going out of its way in order to destroy former Yugoslavia and then Serbia into ever smaller pieces, and today at least THREE EU member states - the UK, Spain, and Belgium - are facing very serious and supported by significant chunks of population secessionist movts (Scotland in the UK, Catalunya in Spain, and Flanders in Belgium).
In Response

by: Konstantin from: Los Angeles
January 25, 2013 05:55
Just as you and your accomplices planned since 1954,
Devide Europe and the World among resurrecting Empires,
Russia, Britain and Germani-Austria, squashing other nations
in between, including CIS, Eastern Europe and Balkans,
followed by fall of non-Germanic-Britanic Europeans.
United States of Europe was a Germanic Idea,
"Klara Tcetkin, Roza Luksaenburg, Lenin"
Way to create European "German" USE,
Bolshevics and imperio-resurrectors use,
all too well, try it to the fall, along with CIS fall,
To hands of Russia, Austria, Germany and the Brits.
Do British play it both way? Do they just prudently defend
National freedom from bureocratisized by resurrectors EU?

by: Eugenio from: Vienna
January 25, 2013 10:53
VIDEO: What does sovereignty look like in the European Union? -

by: peter from: ottawa
January 25, 2013 12:55
Thank you Eugenio you seem hung up on some calamity thats around the corner. There is none , protests, unemployment, social unrest are all part of the economic system. Here people protest all the time, farmers protest low prices, students protest high prices, the armenians protested in april, the iranians protested in august, the palestinians protested in september, teachers just ended their protest, natives, gays, gvt workers protest all the time. , In europe its the same scenario. As for Britain entering or leaving Europe, who cares, the Euro is still the currency of choice in europe. Sorry for not responding promply, its just that I have a life.
In Response

by: Eugenio from: Vienna
January 25, 2013 13:55
Peter, your generalization concerning "Europe" where there is "the same scenario" is again WRONG. There is NO SINGLE scenario in Europe: here in Austria, for example, there are almost no protests or strikes, due to the fact that the never-ending Euro-crisis has not affected the Austrian economy as strongly as it did affect the Greek, Spanish, Portugese or Italian ones.
But in quite a number of EU member states there are CONSTANT protests and strikes over the last 4 years. And it is NOT gays or Palestinians the ones who protest. In Spain, for example, over the last 4 years some 400.000 (!!!) people have been thrown out of their appts due to the fact that the record unemployment of 26 (!!!) % of the population deprived them of a possibility to earn money to pay those credits that the banksters cajoled them into taking. So, now those 400.000 spend their time protesting - apparently their life is not as entertaining as yours.
As far as your comment that "Euro is still the currency of choice in europe" - whose choice, Peter? Frau Merkel's (in the unlikely case you happen to know who it is)? Maybe. But if you put the question of remaining within the Euro-zone on a referendum here in Austria, for example, the majority of people would for sure vote against the Euro - this currency just hampers the economic growth too severely, Peter!
As far as your comment on "Britain entering or leaving Europe - who cares" is concerned: a lot of people here in Europe care, Peter, and you know why? I am sure you have no idea why - so I will just tell you why, Peter. Should ONE member state leave the European Union and have experienced no major economic turbulances as a result, a number of other ones will follow withing MONTHS. So, if the British are to vote against the EU membership in 2015, for example, by the year 2020 you are most likely to have 10 or maybe 15 member states remaining - out of 27 today. And this kind of outcome will imply that the decades that the Germans have spent trying to create this German-dominated European construct, aimed to serve as a market for German industrial goods, have been spent in wain, and that the Germans will haved failed in their attempt to dominate Europe for the third time in the last 100 years - after the previous failures of 1918 and 1945.
Cheers from Vienna, Peter, and please do not hesitate to pose any further questions concerning Europe, should you have any :-).

by: Eugenio from: Vienna
January 25, 2013 19:25
And one more illustration of how wonderful and florishing the life in this European Union is: After the subway workers in Athens (Greece) have been striking for NINE (!!!) consequtive days, they had to stop the strike because the Greek govt promised to PUT THEM INTO JAIL for striking!!! Wow, another impressive example of how good the life is - and how free the people here are - in those countries whose peoples were blessed by God to join the European Union! Thank you, Europe! Thank you, Frau Merkel!

by: Eugenio from: Vienna
January 26, 2013 19:31
VIDEO: Recession Risks: UK heads for triple-dip as GDP shrinks -

by: Eugenio from: Vienna
January 28, 2013 12:02
VIDEO - Will UK Divorce EU?:

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