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12 December 2013

Reuters: 'War game' highlights risks of Britain's EU exit

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Britain's renegotiation of its EU ties risks starting a chain of events that could lead to the 28-nation bloc's paralysis or disintegration, politicians and analysts say.

Open Europe, a eurosceptic think tank funded by business leaders which campaigns for a "slimmed down" EU that focused on free trade, hosted the first ever simulated UK-EU negotiations – a so-called war game - which tested two scenarios: in the first, the UK tried to negotiate a series of reforms to make the EU more globally-competitive, flexible and democratically accountable, while in the second, the UK had to negotiate the terms on which it would leave the EU. The negotiations were conducted by a panel of high-level European politicians and experts in order to reflect how events could unfold post-2015.

Renegotiating Britain's place in Europe before an in/out referendum will be one of Prime Minister David Cameron's central policies in his campaign for re-election in 2015, reports Reuters. Former Irish prime minister John Bruton said a proposal by members of Cameron's Conservative Party for a new "red card" to allow members to block EU laws would paralyse decision-making.

British lawmaker Andrea Leadsom, a member of Cameron's Conservatives and a campaigner for EU reform, said Britain wanted to see powers moved from the EU to national parliaments. Britain wants to opt out of some EU-wide laws on justice, social and employment laws, open the bloc's single market to trade in services as well as goods and reform the rules on agriculture and fisheries, she said.

One speaker representing Italy said Britain's exit from the EU could lead to the bloc's collapse. "We are worried that renegotiating is only the first step towards the breaking up of Europe", said Lucio Caracciolo, an Italian political commentator. Giving Britain a new EU role would lead to other countries demanding special treatment, the panel heard. "We are afraid this would open up Pandora's Box. Other governments would put things on the table because they are also under pressure, often from right-wing or eurosceptic anti-EU parties", said Ulrich Speck, a German commentator. Any changes to the treaties on which the EU is founded could be blocked in national referendums, he added.

Commenting on the 'Brexit' negotiations, the Spectator’s James Forsyth says: "I suspect that the package would be, despite the UK’s trade surplus, relatively ungenerous… the government, which is highly unlikely to be in favour of out, would then say that there must be a second referendum on the exit terms." He also cites OE's Mats Perssons, who pointed out that if the EU and the US reach agreement on a trans-Atlantic free trade area, this could provide an alternative to the single market.

If Britain should vote to leave the EU in a referendum Cameron hopes to hold in 2017, former Irish prime minister John Bruton said Britain's economy would suffer as banks relocate to Europe and it has to pay for access to the EU single market. There would be no return, he said. 

Full article

War game event © Open Europe (trailer)

Press release © Open Europe

© Reuters

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