UK. According to Countryaah, Britain’s complicated relations with the EU dominated politics at the beginning of the year. The government, and especially the Conservative Party, was put under intense pressure by the populist and EU-critical British Independence Party (UKIP) and its leader Nigel Farage, which had a major impact in the debate. UKIP also gained a reputation among many conservative Britons by opposing the government’s plans to introduce same-sex marriage and by criticizing what the party called “uncontrolled mass immigration”. In February, UKIP was even close to winning a seat in the lower house at a filling election in Eastleigh, England.
Even many of Prime Minister David Cameron’s own Conservative party comrades pressed for the referendum on EU membership that he had promised to be held before the 2015 election. But the only promise he made was that it should be held by 2017. that the terms of the UK membership would be renegotiated. He achieved success in February when EU countries agreed to cut 3% in the EU’s long-term budget for 2014-21.
Cameron and the government made commitments during the year to limit immigration and to make it more difficult for new arrivals to receive social assistance and unemployment benefits and more. There was concern in the UK that immigration from the new EU countries Romania and Bulgaria would pick up when all the previous restrictions expired in 2014. The British Prime Minister said in November that he wanted to restrict EU residents’ right to move between countries, which he got criticism from the European Commissioner for Social Policy. The Liberal Democrats, who were also part of the government, and the opposition party Labor also made an impact on the immigration issue.
The UK economy began to recover during the year, with slightly positive growth figures during the first three quarters. However, the credit rating agencies Moody’s and Fitch had decided at the beginning of the year to lower the country’s credit rating from the highest level to the second highest. When Finance Minister George Osborne in March presented the budget for 2013/2014, he reiterated that the state budget would come into balance only in 2017/2018, not 2015 as he had previously promised. However, he stuck to the austerity policy. One of the more controversial elements was a new so-called bedroom tax, which meant that Britons living on social security contributions would have their rent allowance lowered if they had an extra bedroom in their home.
The ruling parties returned strongly in local elections in England and Wales on May 2, while Labor had some success. The winner of the election otherwise became UKIP, which won 139 new seats for its previous eight. In all, Labor received 29% of the vote, the Conservative party 25%, UKIP 23% and the Liberal Democrats 14%. The turnout was low. However, UKIP ended up in windy weather later in the year, partly because of a party member’s sexist and racist statements.
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In March, Scottish Head of Government Alex Salmond announced that the referendum on Scottish independence would be held on September 18, 2014. The debate in Scotland was already heavily polarized. The Jack campaign greatly sought to win supporters by arguing to be able to create a more prosperous and socially fair Scotland, while the No side mainly questioned the possibilities for the Scots to manage on their own. What would apply in the event of a divorce between Scotland and the rest of the UK was not clear, as Cameron did not want to negotiate it in advance. The British government also tried in various ways to warn the Scots of the consequences of a yes in the referendum. To reassure troubled voters, Salmond said that an independent Scotland would retain both the pound and the monarchy.
The most important questions were otherwise how much of the oil revenue that would accrue to Scotland and what would happen to the British nuclear weapons that the Scottish Nationalist Party (SNP) wants to be removed from a naval base north of Glasgow. This was a delicate matter as there were no places in other parts of the UK where they could be moved. However, the SNP was accused of hypocrisy, as the party also wanted Scotland to join NATO.
Margaret Thatcher died in April at the age of 87 and, even after her death, caused controversy between those who believed that the reforms, including increased privatizations, which were carried out during her tenure as Prime Minister 1979-92 were necessary and prayed for increased prosperity, and those who said she had destroyed the country. In many places, especially in northern England and Scotland, the upset was great that her funeral was paid for with tax dollars.
A young British soldier, Lee Rigby, was murdered in May in the Woolwich district of south-east London. The perpetrators, who were of Nigerian origin, were arrested at the crime scene. According to press reports, they said they had committed the act of revenge for “British soldiers killing Muslims in Iraq and Afghanistan every day”. The deed was condemned by a number of Muslim representatives. At the same time, reports of increased violence against Muslims came. The right-wing English Defense Confederation (EDL) organized protest marches that led to clashes with police.
Parliament voted during the year to approve same-sex marriage in England and Wales, and the new law came into force in July. The bill had received sharp criticism from parts of the Conservative Party and parts of the Anglican Church, but most Britons were positive about it.
During the summer, the British security agency GCHQ (Government Communications Headquarters) was pulled into the eavesdropping scandal revealed in June by American Edward Snowden. From a British point of view it was very much about GCHQ’s cooperation with its US counterpart NSA. According to information leaked by Snowden to the British newspaper The Guardian, British telecommunications companies had provided GCHQ with information, including telephone calls had been recorded and emails had been documented. The UK’s official line was that GCHQ stayed within the law’s crucible, while harsh criticism against Snowden and The Guardian which they claimed had jeopardized the country’s security. The British government repeatedly threatened to take legal action against the newspaper and called on it to destroy the data files one of its journalists received from Snowden,
Suspicions that the Syrian regime used chemical weapons against the opposition in August caused great outrage around the world. Prime Minister Cameron was one of the driving forces among those who advocated limited military intervention against Syria. He recalled Parliament in advance to approve such an intervention, even though it would be without UN mandate. However, he suffered a stinging defeat in the House of Commons on August 29 when the government lost the vote, 285 members voted no and 272 voted yes.
This meant that not only a majority of Labor members voted no, but also some thirty Conservative members and nine Liberal Democrats. Just a day before, it had looked like Cameron had received Labor’s support for an attack, but Labor leader Ed Miliband withdrew this after criticism from parts of his party.
On December 11, Britain cut off all weapons aid to Syrian rebels. As a reason, fears were raised that the weapons could end up in the hands of extreme Islamist groups. However, humanitarian support for the rebels would continue.
During the year, the government gave a clear sign to the French energy company EDF to build two new nuclear reactors at Hinkley Point in Somerset. In several locations in England, companies began drilling for shale gas, which sparked protests from locals and environmental activists, especially at the village of Balcombe in Sussex. Geological studies indicated that there was so much shale gas that it could cover Britain’s energy needs for 40 years.
On July 22, there was an increase in the royal house, when the Duchess of Cambridge, Kate Middleton, gave birth to a son named George Alexander Louis. He thus became number three in the succession order, after Prince Charles and Prince William. This meant that the decision to introduce a female succession had no significance this time. Under the new rules, which came into force in April, the ban on a monarch marrying a Catholic was abolished. However, the requirement that a king or queen must be a Protestant was maintained.
In late November, a police helicopter crashed in a crowded pub in Glasgow. Ten people were killed.