Europe in the 2024 manifestos

Simon Usherwood |

It’s a week until the General Election, so a good point to consider the European issue in the campaign so far.

This will be a short post, mostly because very few parties want to talk about the EU, and those that do are using it for a very specific purpose. Quite the contrast to 2019.

As I’ve discussed elsewhere, while it’s understandable that the Conservatives don’t want to revisit the less-than-smooth rollout of Brexit, and Labour don’t want to scare the horses (especially those who’ve drifted over from the Conservatives), that doesn’t mean it’s not an important issue and one with the capacity to be majorly disruptive.

It was only last night, in the final leaders’ debate that a question was directly asked about future EU relations, which produced an exciting combination of avoiding the question and talking about what wouldn’t be done.

The graphics below round out the picture, both for Great Britain and for Northern Ireland.

In GB, the key split is between those parties (CON, REF) who dwell on Brexit as the primary frame of reference and those who talk about EU relations. LibDems, Greens, SNP and Plaid all want eventual membership, something that might become a lever depending on the outcome of results. But only the SNP make much of the matter, so salience is generally pretty low.

I’ve including positions on the ECHR, mostly to highlight that parties have a position on the matter, since it’s possibly going to remain a live issue around handling illegal migration and something with obvious crossovers to relations.

In NI, there is as much explanation/justification as actual policy positions: the graphic omits a fair amount of the former. The Protocol/Windsor Framework is understandably the key frame of reference. Only the TUV now talk about resiling from the treaty, even if the DUP remain less than enthusiastic on the matter.

It’s worth noting that NI parties are much more europeanised, in the sense of internalising the European dimension into their entire programmes. Clearly this is also bound up with republicanism and unionism, but it’s quite a contrast to the GB parties, where their manifestos seem to largely ignore Europe (and the rest of the world, for that matter).

Final point is to note that I’m still missing the Alliance and SDLP manifestos (the latter despite it being launched yesterday), so I will add this in as I have them.