Could this be the end of the EU as we know it?

By Rick Pendrous

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: European union, Eu

Could this be the end of the EU as we know it?
Will 2013 prove to be the pivotal year in which the UK's future as part of the EU tips against continued membership? Are we inexorably moving towards a referendum on staying in? And what would be the implications for our food and drink industry if we were to come out?

Without doubt, anti-EU sentiment among the population is rising, championed by UKIP and the eurosceptic wing of the Tory Party; bolstered by the crisis in euroland, concerns about over-regulation from Brussels and muddied by arguments about immigration.

In the current tough economic climate, the UK government is not alone in wanting to rein in the huge EU budget there are also rumblings from other northern European countries. And the Labour Party recognises it can't support profligate spending by the EU at a time when the electorate at home is being asked to shoulder cuts to essential services.

'Budget cuts'

So, Prime Minister David Cameron's recent foray to Brussels armed with proposed "budget cuts" could be the harbinger of bigger problems to come within the EU. It could herald the beginning of the end of the EU as we know it.

There is a battle currently raging in Brussels about reform of the Common Agricultural Policy, which forms the lion's share of the EU budget. The stumbling block is that one man's waste is another's essential subsidy. MEPs are at odds with the European Commission, which accuses the former of delaying tactics, while the MEPs refuse to be railroaded into agreeing to measures they fear will damage their national interests.

Compromise will eventually be achieved, but this will cause inevitable delay. And in the meantime the voices of EU dissent will become even more shrill.

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