Using France and the UK as case studies, this paper discusses how the focus of groups opposed to European integration has changed over time. Such groups often claim to have a generalised or ideological opposition to the European Union, but in practice it is apparent that particular issues arouse most attention. The article covers the period since the mid-1980s, to show how the relative importance of different elements has changed over time, both for anti-EU group formation and changes in groups’ activities. Most notably, this change has been informed by two key factors. Firstly, an incomplete (or biased) view of the EU system repeatedly draws groups’ attention to otherwise minor topics, often taking them to be symbolic of wider developments (e.g. harmonisation of standards). Secondly, groups’ interest is highest in projects when they are not fully decided (e.g. membership of the Euro or the constitutionalisation process since Laeken). The overall picture that emerges is one of groups rationally concentrating their efforts on targets that offer the most unambiguous case for an alternative policy at the point of greatest leverage in the policy-making cycle. This underlines the dynamic nature of opposition to the EU and the fundamental link between that opposition and the EU itself.
Euroscepticism; Political Parties; Pressure Groups
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