Should the UK stay, or should it go?
The British people will make that decision about membership in the European Union on June 23, but their representatives in Brussels – members of the European Parliament – have a unique perspective on that vote.
“I want the UK to leave the European Union,” says Conservative MEP David Campbell Bannerman, “in order to take back control of our own country.”
“And I think Britain should remain in the European Union,” says Labour MEP Richard Howitt, “because all of our history has been about engagement in Europe to end war, to promote peace, and promote prosperity for our people.”
The EU is often a confusing institution, so we walked around the European capital with Campbell Bannerman and Howitt to hear what its main bodies mean to them.
It’s in this building, home to the EU’s executive body, that the policy agenda is set forth, new legislation is proposed, and existing legislation is enforced.
David Campbell Bannerman: “To me, this is unaccountable, undemocratic, and this is where the power is – it’s not with our Westminster parliament anymore, it’s here.”
Richard Howitt: “They’re professional civil servants doing a very important job. And the French, the Germans, the Spanish, the Italians – they’re proud of their countries, they control their destinies – they don’t think that the people inside that building are a threat, and neither do I from Great Britain.”
In here, government representatives from all 28 EU member states meet to discuss everything from foreign to economic policy and set the political direction for the EU.
Howitt: “For the United States, it’s been very good to have Britain on the inside of the European Union, because on an issue like the invasion of Ukraine and the sanctions on Russia, we’ve helped bolster the European position.”
Campbell Bannerman: “The point is, we’re not leaving Europe. A lot of people equate the EU with Europe – it’s not. We’re not leaving Europe.”
“It’s important for the European Union. Friendly relations will continue, but just in a different way.”
With 751 seats, the European Parliament is one of the largest legislative bodies in the world, and the room Campbell Bannerman and Howitt call home.
Howitt: “I’m English, but I’m also from the United Kingdom. I’m a European. And I’m a citizen of the world. And I don’t see these as competing identities.”
Campbell Bannerman: “This is all about creating a super state. And I think it’s either we stay in the super state or we leave, we get back our sovereignty to run our own country.”