Britain's Euroskepticism

Time to Look in the Mirror

A Brexit supporter holds a Union Flag at a Vote Leave rally in London, Britain June 4, 2016. REUTERS/Neil Hall
Waving the flag for the United Kingdom.
  • Why it matters

    Why it matters

    Great Britain has always been skeptical of the European project, partly because of its position as an island nation and its unique sense of its national sovereignty.

  • Facts

    Facts

    • A lack of government investment in healthcare and education, complicated building laws and costly bank bailouts have shaken confidence in the economic system.
    • Older Britons are unwilling to accept that the country no longer plays the same role in the world.
    • After initially distancing itself from the European Economic Community when it was formed in 1957, Great Britain joined in 1973.
  • Audio

    Audio

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There is one number that strikes at the heart of the problem: 29 percent. Not even one in three Britons trusts European Union institutions. Citizens’ confidence in the E.U. is only lower in crisis-ridden Greece, according to a survey by the European Commission.

There are many reasons for British euroskepticism, which will culminate in two weeks with the referendum on European Union membership. These include the country’s history, its island geography and its unique awareness of national sovereignty. But none of this can fully explain why, now of all times, the country is on the brink of leaving the European Union.

The momentum towards the referendum was accelerated by a series of domestic political failures. Because the government invested too little money in the healthcare and education system, hospitals and schools are now stretched to their limits. Complicated building and planning laws have worsened the housing shortage in parts of the country. Finally, costly bank bailouts in the course of the financial crisis have shaken confidence in the economic system.

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