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Arguments against the EU

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Opponents of the European Union, often described as eurosceptics, include those who are critical of certain areas of EU policy, those who want their country to leave the EU, as well as those who believe the EU should be disbanded. Their views generally relate to the broad themes outlined below.

The EU does not safeguard peace

Attributing the peace in Europe today to the EU does not take into account the Allied victory over Hitler and Nazism in 1945, the 1948 Marshall Plan, and the creation of NATO in 1949. Friendly co-operation in a Europe of national self-governing democracies with free trade agreements would be possible without the EU.

The EU is too costly and inefficient

For some countries the cost of being a member of the EU is greater than the benefits they receive. Much of money paid to the EU pays for the Common Agricultural Policy which is a highly controversial policy designed to protect the EU’s farming industry. A sizeable amount goes towards structural funds, which redistributes money across the EU. This could be holding back countries’ development as national governments could better invest the money themselves.  In addition, despite claims that EU membership is beneficial in reaching international agreements, the EU does not have free trade agreements with major economies like Japan and China whereas smaller independent countries do.

The EU is undemocratic

The European Union has a lot of power but it is much less accountable to the people than national governments.  Most EU decisions are made or shaped by the unelected EU Commission. The democratic element of the EU model, the European Parliament, has fewer powers than most elected parliaments and cannot propose EU legislation. Further still, turnout at European Parliament elections is so low that it is difficult to proclaim it is legitimately representative. The other key decision-making body, the European Council, takes the majority of its decisions using qualified majority voting, which means that not all countries have to agree to changes even though they still have to accept them. This undermines national democracies.

The EU undermines national sovereignty

The European Community was set up as an economic organisation. However, its role expanded to cover many areas where it would be better for member states to make their own decisions. Its powers now extend into traditionally national policy areas with the creation of common foreign, security, justice and home affairs policy. Many EU policies affect ordinary Europeans in the form of EU regulations that attempt to impose a single standard across the EU, but which are never debated by national parliaments. Trying to impose one-size-fits-all rules on 28 different member states, with diverse economies, demographics and cultures cannot work.

The EU operates as a customs union, which means that the member states can only negotiate trade deals as part of the EU. Countries cannot represent their individual interests at negotiations. There are also many other international organisations that deal with issues such as peace, security and the environment that do not require surrendering national sovereignty but where the EU is increasingly representing all 28 member states as one unified group. The EU often ends up reaching a compromise that no-one finds satisfactory because it always has to try to please all of its members.