Book Review: Why Europe Matters for Britain, the Case of Remaining In


Bibliographic Details

Book: Why Europe Matters for Britain: The Case for Remaining In by John McCormick

Length: 184 pages

Publisher: Palgrave; Special edition edition (1 Jan. 2016)

Language: English


Does the exit of Britain from the EU matter? In this book, McCormick aims to convince his audience on the value of the EU. The author tackles the underlying issues with ignorance and dispelling confusion concerning the relevance of the EU. This book By McCormick provides a critical response to the skepticism and doubts concerning the British stay in the EU. The author provides the reasons why the EU is of great importance to Britain. The author argues that integration is not only beneficial for Europe and Britain, but also beneficial to the rest of the world. McCormick believes that integration has provided a new way of doing political, economic, and social business in a more productive and peaceful manner. On the same note, the author believes that the EU has improved the lives of its members in a more peaceful and tangible manner. The author believes that some of the deeper changes brought by the EU may not be obvious and immediate as some may want to see them. Life may be horrible and unstable without the political, social, and economics developments realized under the banner of the EU. The author also offers counterarguments and explains how life might be without the EU. On the same note, the author explains the false allegations and the myths that have been associated with the EU.


In the recent past, Europe has been dominating various deadlines for various reasons. The issues with Europe began when Greece fell into debt crisis that affected the economic status of the country. The Greek debt crisis brought mixed reactions in EU as leaders were divided on how to respond and save the country. The Greek condition made the experts and policy makers to question the viability of the single EU currency and cast doubts concerning the future of the European Union. During the Greek crisis, the Britain saw the possible challenges of retaining their EU membership. The decision for the Britain to hold a referendum made people start questioning the pros and the cons of the UK membership in the EU. The immigration crisis experienced by the EU countries also brought an ugly side of the EU. The immigration crisis raised numerous concerns concerning the willingness of countries to keep their borders open.

From the time the Britain joined the EU, they have played an active role as one of the leading members of the EU (Oliver, 2016). Whereas the Britain has always played an active and constructive role in the EU, McCormick argues that their role has never been all that enthusiastic. He argues that most of the Britons have never fully comprehended the role of Britain in EU and its significance as the EU member. Therefore, the Greek debt crisis, the immigration dilemma, the unrest in the Middle East and the Russia’s reaction to Ukraine made most Britons to cast a doubt on the significance of the European Union.

According to McCormick, the Britain needs EU as much as the EU needs Britain. He argues that it is easy to overlook the several benefits of EU membership. The European Union has helped the Europe to experience a long peace and stability in the longest time in History. Before the end of the Second World War, Europe was the epitome of global conflicts. These countries lacked an umbrella body like the EU that could help the member country enhance their understanding and pursue their agenda. Therefore, the EU has played a significant role in bringing down the political barriers and expanding the economic opportunities for the member states. In addition, the EU helped the member countries to redefine the social priorities and recognize and celebrate their cultural differences as Europeans. Currently, the European Union is the wealthiest market in the whole world (Guderjan, 2016). Therefore, it presents a huge business opportunity to every country or individual that is interested in doing business beyond their borders. Bucle et al (2015) also supports that the EU has enabled the member countries to promote their innovation in the free market and expand their wealth. The EU enabled the member countries to share what is common to them, as opposed to what divides them. Within the global dimension, the EU showcases an example of moral and political advantages of civilian power and the social advantages of togetherness.

The December 2012 ceremony in Oslo provided an inspiring story of the role of the EU has the peacemaker. This event reflected upon the six decades of EU hard work in promoting peace and harmony in the EU. For example, France and Germany were some of the bitter rivals and are currently enjoying peace under the banner of the EU.

Despite its challenges over the years, it has accomplished a lot. The majority of the people in EU supports its work by larger margins despite their constant challenges. Generally, the majority of the Europeans feels that EU is of great importance to them. Even on the eve of 2012-2013 crisis, the Europeans in favor of EU outnumbered those who were pessimistic about the EU. Most Europeans believe that the EU countries should collaborate closely and help sort the debt crisis.

In some few instances, the British has been accused of jeopardizing the well-being of the EU. For example, the opposition by Britain to open its borders and its rejection of the euro made it to be labeled by others as an awkward EU partner. However, these are a numerous occasions where the British have shown leadership on issues concerning the European Union. In several instances, it the Britain has been credited for being tough and competent in negotiations that helps to achieve the development of the EU.

According to McCormick, the majority of the Britons who support the EU tends to be the young between the ages of 15 years to 24 years old. Also, the Briton who supports the EU tends are professionals and those who are properly educated. Therefore, McCormick argues that a distinction needs to be made between soft skepticism and hard skepticism in order to understand the divergent views concerning the benefits of the EU.

According to McCormick, the critical opinions of EU have evolved around three major areas. First, there is this view that the integration would interfere with the national sovereignty of the Britain. These people believe that the integration would interfere with the laws and policies that have enabled their country become one of the most successful in Europe.  On the same note, there is a growing threat that the EU is quickly heading towards becoming a federal European superstate. If this happens, these groups of Britons believe that they may lose their British national identity. The second view is that the European Union is undemocratic and elitist and this would interfere with the acceptance of divergent opinions from the member states. For example, these people believe that the European Commission is an unelected body that does not deserve the mandate to make laws on behalf of the EU member states. These people believe that the EU represents the interests of the wealthy at the expense of the interest of the common man. The third opposition to the EU comes from those with the view that the integration process is a big burden and inefficient due to greater regulatory burden. These people are opposed to the harmonization process that they believe has reduced the ability of the national government to respect to their distinctive economic interests. Therefore, these people believe that their individual policy needs are not sufficiently accounted for under the banner of the EU.

McCormick believes that the debate concerning the EU can only be fruitful if there is a better understanding of the integration by the Britons. The process of integration should not be clouded by myths. It is widely evident that Europe has benefited from the benefits of free trade and free movement of people across the borders. Therefore, reducing the barriers to the free movement of people and the goods may have a negative impact on the trade and economic gains. Currently, there are many concerns about the euro as the single currency. However, people can really appreciate the benefits of single currency once the issue of the euro can be resolved. A good number of people are in support of integration. Also, there are numerous channels by which their interests can be represented and protected. It will be unreasonable for some people to expect the EU as a perfect democratic institution, yet democracy is often messy and imperfect. The central message portrayed by the author is that the Britain needs the EU just as much as the EU needs them.

Three main points are addressed by McCormick in his explanations of the EU. First, the integration has made the EU to be less nationalistic and does not represent their views. The other key point is that most of the current problems experienced by the EU stem from the poor and inadequate policies of the member state countries and not the EU decision making body. Thirdly, it is widely evident that the EU integration has enabled the European citizens to be safer, healthier, and in better economic status than before.  

The contents of the book align well with the federalism theory since the author supports European unity. The theory of federalism advocates for the unity of the countries of Europe. In addition, the theory of federalism supports the unity of the federal states beyond their national allegiances (Boka, 2012). However, those that voted for Britain to leave EU were not reasoning beyond their national allegiances. On the same note, the theory of federalism calls upon the public to be strong enough to exercise pressure on their national governments to support unites with other states (Rubenstein, 2015). The proponents of federalism are of the view that the national governments are the major obstacles to the European integration as they are resistant to transfer of power. Therefore, only the public can pressure the national government to support the European integration. From this book, it is evident that there was no strong political will by the national government support the European integration.

The theories of functionalism and federalism are credited for providing solutions the long term conflicts that plagued Europe (Tanter, 1969). Whereas federalism advocated for building political federalism, functionalism advocates for cooperation among countries through the integration of one or more highly important economic function. The federalist approach calls for the Europeans to build a comprehensive political platform that builds unity among the Europeans.  

This book also agrees with the intergovernmentalism theory that stipulates that national governments should be the primary actors in the integration process. The European Union is a political integovernment organization with several member states that negotiates its decisions by the representatives of the member states (Werhan, 2015). In this manner, the EU develops laws that apply to the individual member states to develop their national interests.  


Analysis and Critique

Winston Churchill had a good dream for the Europeans. Churchill believed that the creation of one umbrella of European family would enable them to live in peace, safety, and freedom.  Several decades later, the dream of Winston Churchill was realized through the success of the European Union. Traditionally, Europe was known to be the center stage of world conflicts (Young, 2016). However, the formation of the EU has enabled the Europeans to better their social, political, and economic life. McCormick argues that the EU has helped the Britons more than they can recognize and appreciate. According to Schwanke (2016), the legislative structure of the EU enhances the direct and indirect democracy of the more than 500 million EU members. Such huge numbers can effectively work towards a common goal to realize immense social, economic, and political benefits. The manner in which the EU citizens can hold their officials accountable showcases the development of democracy in Europe (Price, 2016). Despite these developments, the EU is under attack due to the ignorance and the myths that surrounds the existence of the EU. In his analysis, McCormick tends to forgive the citizens for their Eurosceptic tendency and blames the media and the politicians for their inability to convey the positive message about the EU.  

Just like McCormick, Oliver (2016) believes that the decision by the Britain to leave the EU resulted from previous doubts concerning the benefits of their EU membership. However, it is evident that Brexit will have wider implications not only to the Britain, but to the wider European politics, the NATO, and the transatlantic relationships (Paun, 2016). According to Oliver (2016), the Washington is particularly worried that the decision by Britain to leave EU will have wider implications in weakening the unity in Europe and interfering with the prolonged security.

Oliver (2016) agrees with McCormick (2016) that the decision by Britain to leave EU cannot be solely blamed on the effeteness of the EU. It has more to do with the anti-austerity, anti-politics, anti-immigration, and the anti-London nature of the Britons. It had more to do with the Britain political parties, identity politics, and the need for change in the UK constitution. On the same note, the campaigns for the UK to remain in the EU were also weakened by widespread ignorance, weak messages, poor leadership, and party divisions. Such scenarios provided those against the EU to have a strong ground to spread the negative propaganda and mislead the masses about the potential benefits of the EU.

The withdrawal of the British from the EU will automatically put the unity of Europe under pressure. Already, there is much pressure on the EU unity caused by the refugee crisis and the Eurozone (Meager, 2016). Traditionally, withdrawal from the EU was almost considered a taboo for the member states. However, the withdrawal by the Britain from the EU has shown other member countries that there is a wide exist door (Global Counsel, 2016). Oliver (2016) argues that the ease by which the British withdrew their EU membership may trigger centrifugal forces that may make other states to start re-looking at their EU membership. According to Haines (2016), the success or the failure of the Britain outside the EU will also impact the future of the EU. If the Britain struggles outside the EU, then the appeal to leave for the current members may be limited and the partners may choose to work more effectively together. If the British succeeds outside the EU, then Britain may use that as an opportunity to renegotiate its economic and political relationships in Europe as they may expect to be treated in a special way (Correspondent, 2016).

On the other hand, the withdrawal of the British from the EU may shift the power balances within the EU. British played an important role in providing leadership for several countries with distinct culture that have their membership in the EU. The decision by the British to leave the EU may shift the center of power to be more inclined towards Germany. Such a shift in the center of power may have implications for the Franco-German axis. France may find it challenging to deal with the power shift towards Germany that may impose on them a culture of restraint and geo-economics thinking over geopolitical thinking. On the same note, countries such as Irish Republic may find it even more challenging to operate within EU due to their heavy links to the UK. All these imbalances may eventually affect the stability and the Unity of the EU.

McCormick (201) argues that the exit of the British may have wider implications for the EU and the global security. Oliver (2016) observes that the Britain provided a strong military support to the EU. Britain was capable of thinking at global level with the U.S and the merging superpowers such as Russia and China. Therefore, their withdrawal from the EU will affect the international aid, the intelligence, and the soft power to the EU. Also, the exit of the Britain may weaken the EU security cooperation and their foreign policy. Specifically, the U.S fears that the disintegration in Europe may put them in awkward situations in supervising the emerging powers such as China as Europe will have a weakened power to think geostrategically. In the long term, the U.S may find it challenging to face the emerging powers with a disintegrated Europe. 

According to Buckle et al (2015), the commonwealth power lies in the network approach where the UK can easily access every border and facilitate the trade between the countries. This facilitates great stability for the EU and other parts of the world. The EU offered an opportunity for the UK to import cheaper goods without the tariffs and trade freely across the borders. Therefore, the Brexit may impact some of the previous benefits enjoyed by the UK as a leading EU member.

Despite the ease by which the Britains voted to leave the EU, there are some groups that feel that is is a bad idea altogether. Currently, the publication of Brexit has been rocked by a legal battle within the Britain top court. The judges feel that the court has aroused a strong feeling relating to how and whether to leave the EU. On the same note, one of the Northern Ireland campaigner has also petitioned the supreme court to reverse the decision to leave the EU. He argues that Norther Ireland voted 56% in favor of remaining part of the EU and thus leaving the EU is against the wishes of the people of Northern Ireland. On the same note, several trade groups have vowed to challenge the decision in court.


This book provides a strong evidence that the exit by Britain from the EU will have wider impacts, both locally and internationally. First, the author of this book is a university professor (McCormick) with vast experience in teaching and researching various issues related to the EU. The author has been studying the EU for about two decades. On the same note, the author as both the U.S and the U.K citizenship and is able to have both the insider and the outsider view of the E.U. Therefore, the information comes from a credible personality with vast knowledge on the subject matter. The author provides a convincing analysis concerning the value of the EU for the Britain and the world. His arguments helps to provide the remedy for ignorance and dispels the confusion surrounding the value of the EU. This relatively short book does the good job in providing honest and clear explanations related to the Brexit. He systematically explains the value of the EU as a peacemaker, a marketplace, a community, a political model, and a global player. The weakness of the book is that the author supports too many claims without deep explanations and necessary supporting evidence. Overall, the book is well written and is very persuasive. I would recommend it to academicians, the policy makers, the students, and anybody who is interested in understanding the value of the EU. Therefore, the book provides useful information to the general discourse as the author writes the book for everyone who wants to understand the achievements of Europe.


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