has become a general term for opposition to the process of further European integration
. It is not, however, a single ideology
, and eurosceptics differ on both their vision of Europe and on the manner in which it is perceived to fail: thus some eurosceptics seek a different form of European Union whilst some seek the withdrawal of their own country from the EU and yet others seek the complete dissolution of the EU.
The term Eurosceptic originated in the United Kingdom, and at first referred to those within the Labour Party and Conservative Party who were sceptical of their parties’ official support for UK membership of the then European Economic Community. Since then, the meaning has expanded, to cover general opposition to the European Union, to some or all of its policies, to the introduction of the euro, and to any future pan-European entity in the form of a superstate, a federation, or a confederation. The term entered other European languages as a loan word or calque, for instance Europaskepsis in German.
The issues on which eurosceptics focus vary from country to country.
In European countries outside the EU, eurosceptics focus attention on the perceived disadvantages of Union membership; for instance, in the case of Norway, the greatest concern is the effect of the EU’s Common Fisheries Policy. In those countries which are already members, but have chosen to retain independent currencies (the United Kingdom, Denmark and Sweden), Eurosceptics focus on the disadvantages of euro membership as well as on other aspects of involvement with the EU. Some arguments against the Economic and Monetary Union are built on complaints that the Growth and Stability Pact has been inconsistently applied, and on the recent underperformance of the eurozone when compared with those economies that have chosen to remain outside.
While many eurosceptics take issue with particular characteristics of the EU as it stands, some maintain in principle that the very concept of the EU is an invention of bureaucrats seeking to create a bureaucratic and undemocratic superstate.
Eurosceptics oppose the idea of a centralised European superstate, a United States of Europe
akin to the United States of America
, which many see as the inevitable outcome of current integrationist
trends. This is a perception disputed by some, but by no means all, pro-Europeans.
Eurosceptics often disagree with current or proposed measures that they see as compromising national sovereignties, including:
- the proposed European Rapid Reaction Force
- the draft European Constitution
- the proposed establishing of a European Public Prosecutor, or the establishing of Eurojust
- any extension of Europol to include enforcement powers
- harmonising taxation or welfare benefits
- reduction to the number of policy areas subject to agreement by unanimity in the European Council, where each country may veto proposed legislation
Eurosceptics often propose either radical modifications to the structure of the EU, including more influence for national parliaments, or the withdrawal of their country from the Union altogether.
Eurosceptics in the European Parliament
In 2004, 37 MEPs
from the UK
founded a new European Parliament
group called “Independence and Democracy
” from the old Europe of Democracies and Diversities
(EDD) group. The main goals of this group are to reject the Treaty establishing a constitution for Europe
and to oppose further European integration
. Some delegations within the group, notably the United Kingdom Independence Party
, advocate the complete withdrawal of their country from the EU.
The group’s leaders are Nigel Farage of the United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP) (10 MEPs) and, since May 2008, Kathy Sinnott from Ireland.
The Union for Europe of the Nations Group is also eurosceptic as are some parties within the left-wing Confederal Group of the European United Left–Nordic Green Left and the European Greens–European Free Alliance. The UK’s largely eurosceptic Conservative Party are currently part of the European People's Party–European Democrats grouping in the European Parliament, which has mainly a pro-European agenda. However the party is currently committed to withdrawing from the EPP as soon as a new grouping, to be entitled Movement for European Reform, can recruit enough members to be viable.
Euroscepticism from religious groups
The EU has received strong criticism from members of some religious groups, most notably evangelical Christians
views. They complain that the EU is rooted too strongly in secular humanism
and undermines traditional Christianity
with its policies. Some go as far to describe the EU as the beginnings of the one-world empire allegedly foretold in Bible prophecy
. According to their interpretation of the Apocalypse, it is believed that such an empire will eventually be led by a single ruler, the Antichrist
. Arguments for this view include a perceived occultic
significance of EU symbolism, an allegedly "un-Christian" nature of EU policies, the refusal to mention the Christian God
in official documents and the effort to encourage the people of Europe
to reject their national identity in favour of a European identity. Also, conservative Catholics such as the Polish religious group known as the Radio Maryja Family
, and led by Father Tadeusz Rydzyk
, are strongly opposed the EU, seeing it as denying and attempting to suppress Europe's Christian and Catholic background.
Euroscepticism in the United Kingdom
Studies of public opinion