current affairs

Around the world this week: 18 January 2014

Written by Sarah Aston

Referendums and ‘national interest’ seem to have been the topic du jour this week. Egypt has gone through yet another referendum deciding which

Referendums and ‘national interest’ seem to have been the topic du jour this week. Egypt has gone through yet another referendum deciding which constitution the government should adhere to whilst the EU has been threatened once again with the insistence for a UK referendum on the UK’s membership.

One is a country desperate for political stability and a legitimate government. The other is coming across as a rather spoilt child stamping their feet because they are having to share their toys.  

UK and the EU

This week, 95 Conservative MPs urged Prime Minister David Cameron to take one further step away from the European Union and push for a veto on new EU legislation.

The 95 argued in a letter to the PM that new EU legislation must be blocked and existing measure should be repealed to protect ‘national interest.

The legislation the 95 refer to include human rights laws, business protocols and immigration policies.

Apparently letting prisoners vote and Europeans live in the UK are a step too far and as such Britain must block the EU and even better leave the EU.

Having already promised an in-out referendum on Britain’s membership to the EU, Cameron is facing increasing pressure to push this date forward.

As the Prime Minister, Cameron is the one that actually has to meet the leaders of other member states so I imagine he feels somewhat stuck between a rock and a hard place right now.

Risk alienating the European Union, which is currently expanding and building its economic trade and defence power up, or risk alienating the British public who have the power to vote him out of government.

Of course fellow Conservative, Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne, who this week spoke at a conference on EU reform, has helped none of this.

Addressing the audience, Osborne spoke of Britain’s determination to make the single market work but the slightly damaged his stance by suggesting that current EU Treaties are outdated.

He said: “The European Treaties are not fit for purpose. They didn’t anticipate a European Union where some countries would pursue dramatically deeper integration than others.”

Although it seems to be deeply unpopular to say this, leaving the European Union or opting out of vital legislation that form the pillars of the Union does not make sense.

As Foreign Secretary William Hague explained, “If national parliaments all around the EU were regularly and unilaterally allowed to choose which bits of EU law they would apply and which bits they would not the European single market would not work.”

More to it

It does, in fact, go much further than this.

Despite Britain’s insistence that it is independent and a powerful country in its own right, that just isn’t the case anymore.

The NSA scandal that hit in 2013 has revealed that the United States has limited trust in any of its allies and Britain is still recovering from the huge dent to its international reputation that the Afghanistan war created.

Whilst economically reports of the struggling Eurozone create this image that the European Union is a drain on UK resources, the Union has boosted Britain’s clout in discussions such as the Iranian nuclear programme.

Without the European Union we are a small island with limited friends.

So whilst those 95 MPs are stomping their feet about legislation it might be worth thinking about reasons for a referendum on British membership to the EU.

Human rights laws that seek to create a universal European standard and immigration policies that apply to all member states should not be a deciding factor for a country dedicated to righting wrongs in other countries.


One referendum that was important this week was the Egyptian referendum on the constitution.

Proposed by the forces that overthrew former president Mohamed Morsi, this week’s referendum will decide whether the proposals for a new constitution should be accepted.

With such tension between those that support Morsi and those that don’t, this referendum has been largely regarded as a vote on the legitimacy of the decision to oust Morsi from his post.

Outlining policies to protect religious freedom and gender equality, it seems as if the results of this referendum could bring some long-awaited stability to the country. We’ll need to wait and see what happens.

Have your say on this week’s events in the comments section below.

Image: Jonathan Rashad / Wikimedia Commons