There will undoubtedly be huge amounts of coverage regarding the EU referendum now it has been announced and students should be able to see the importance and relevance of this, both nationally and in terms of their course. However following the announcement last Saturday, there are a few keys points for students to apply this to their course:
1. Sovereignty – “It is recognised that the United Kingdom… is not committed to further political integration into the European Union.” This was the deal that Cameron got on this issue and while no further integration is a start for many Tories it is not enough! Great stuff for Unit 2 Parties.
2. The Conservative Party – with Michael Gove, Iain Duncan Smith and Boris Johnson plus more than 110 other Tories all campaigning to leave, the Tory Party is well and truly split. Whether Cameron would be having this referendum at all if he did not have a slim majority is up for debate. However there are some already commenting that no matter how the referendum goes, it will be difficult for the Party to recover. Great for differences within parties and party policy for Unit 1 (Parties). It is also useful when evaluating the power of a PM with a small majority trying to reconcile factions within his party (Unit 2 – PM)
3. The referendum – yet another referendum in the UK is great evidence for democracy questions, especially this one. The use of referendums has become a constitutional convention While referendums are usually touted as being democratic, this is an interesting one as the issue is so complex, how can they effectively boil it down to a yes-no question. Equally, it does undermine the Burkean model of representative democracy in which representatives are elected to represent us as educated individuals. On the other hand, unlike most referendums, the Conservative Party have said that this one will be politically binding, which changes some of the usual criticisms levelled at referendums. Great for Unit 1 Democracy.
4. The campaigns – already the division lines have been drawn and there are campaign groups to stay in (http://www.strongerin.co.uk) and to leave (http://www.voteleavetakecontrol.org/). This is excellent for the Pressure Groups topic of Unit 1 and there is likely to be lots of pressure group action around this topic! Looking at which side has ‘celebrity’ support (Cameron – in, Johnson – Out), looking at the importance of opposition, and watching their methods. Equally, 36 of the FTSE 100 companies wrote an open letter stating that Britain would be better in the EU, again a useful pressure group example.
5. The result – while this obviously will not be determined for a long time, the impact should have great repercussions for the UK Constitution either way, either in accepting a new deal or in removing the UK from the EU and therefore changing the UK Constitution completely.