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Last Updated: Tuesday, 3 May, 2005, 18:07 GMT 19:07 UK
Should Europe be an election issue?
EU flags
Britain's place in the European Union has not been a major issue in the general election campaign so far.

None of the major parties apart from the UK Independence Party have placed it high in their manifestos even though the UK is set hold the EU presidency later this year.

Voters have also been promised referenda on entry into the European single currency as well as the constitution.

Are you concerned that Europe has not been a major feature of the 2005 campaign? Should it be an election issue? Or are other issues more important?

We put your questions to Dr Paulo Dardinelli from the University of Kent. Click on the link to watch the video.

This debate is now closed. Thank you for your comments. You can read a selection of them below.

It would be a better bet than the current drift towards a US-style economy and culture
Mike Bettney, Long Eaton, UK
I am not wildly enthusiastic about the EU but it would be a better bet than the current drift towards a US-style economy and culture (dumbing down of education, poor social benefits and pensions for most people, vacuous media, and attempts to stifle effective opposition). What I really wanted was an independent Britain in the old European Free Trade Association, which we ditched in favour of the EU, or the common market as we then called it.
Mike Bettney, Long Eaton, UK

Europe is not an election issue because most floating voters haven't got a clue what it's about.
Andy Parks, Bedford

It should be and it certainly is where I come from. Shetland relies heavily on the fishing industry and this has been decimated by Europe. But more than that, the unelected Eurocrats have had a helping hand from Tony and his cronies who have done nothing to protect the fishing industry. But then they wouldn't would they since people in rural and coastal communities don't tend to vote Labour, do they? Or am I just being cynical?
Bob, Shetland, UK

I have been inundated with leaflets. The Conservatives have sent me three identical leaflets all addressing me as Mr - I am a Ms. At least Labour have only wasted trees on one leaflet, so I can only assume they are a bit greener than the Conservatives. I feel sorry for the poor postman.
Chris, London

I believe that a fully integrated Europe, with a combined defence force, will lead to greater wealth for everyone
Terry M, Hersham
Europe should be a very major issue. I believe that a fully integrated Europe, with a combined defence force, will lead to greater wealth for everyone. We will overtake the US in terms economic and military power. If we pull out what will happen to all the people who have purchased property in Europe? Before entry into the EEC, a three months stay was all that was allowed!
Terry M, Hersham

Yes Europe should be a major issue - It's a missed opportunity by the Tories not to have raised this as it allows UKIP to take votes from them. Instead of having the five action areas and spending too much time on immigration, the Tories would have done better to bring in Europe an issue.
Steve Plank, Bracknell

It would be interesting to know just how many UKIP and Tory candidates and supporters own property in Europe. Just how many are prepared to take what Europe can offer, but are against giving back something of what they are taking?
Colin Cumming, Storrington, UK

I think Europe is the biggest issue for the general election. The common market was set up to promote trading on the continent. It should never have become political, and Britain will be much better off if we left.
John Hefford, Doncaster, S Yorks

I will be voting UKIP. Our immigration, public spending, law and order policies etc are controlled by Europe. Until we leave the EU our domestic politics will be irrelevant. That is why we here so little talk of policy during this election; the parties don't have any. Also, the UK is becoming a police state because our officials need to find new ways to interfere in our lives to make up for the power that they've lost to Europe.
Sally, Sheffield

Europe does need to be an election issue. We pay 4bn a year to stay in the EU
Martin, England
Europe does need to be an election issue. We pay 4bn a year to stay in the EU! This money could be better spent elsewhere rather than paying for our existence in a bureaucratic organisation that is not worthy of the 4bn we pay into it each year.
Martin, England

Considering Europe makes 70% of our laws it is a bigger issue than the election.
Joe, UK

After our disastrous war in Iraq considerations relating to the EU are by far the most important for us all. But Blair of all people should not be the one to judge, as he clearly does not possess this skill.
Ian R Elliott, Whitstable

Absolutely, it's an election issue. Why should we continue to pay billions to an organisation that imposes more and more restrictions on us, while most other member states ignore them?
Chris, UK

The EU was changing this time last year. It's an advantage to us and we should keep it like it is. There is no point changing one little thing but I don't think we should get the Euro as the pound makes us unique!
Rebecca Sorrie, Linlithgow, Scotland

As the EU is likely to need restructuring before long, why worry about it now?
Stephen Allsop, Hatfield Peverel
As the EU is likely to need restructuring before long, why worry about it now? History shows that it took a couple of attempts to 'unite the states' of America. You can hardly expect the Tories to bring it up as it tore the party apart in the mid-nineties. As for the government, the rebate GB negotiated is now under threat - if this was acknowledged, they may face questions on a larger black hole in their fiscal maths.
Stephen Allsop, Hatfield Peverel

Europe has to be an issue at this election. When will people see that Europe is where our future lies? A referendum is a bad idea as the uninformed cannot be relied on to make the right decision for this country's future.
Michael, Manchester

Until there are some real facts published about the EU and the constitution it can't possibly be an election issue. Maybe it's about time more British people started studying a bit about the EU, then we might get somewhere.
Jennifer, Netherlands, ex-UK

There will be a referendum, whoever wins the election
Richard, Birmingham
It is not an issue as there will be a referendum on the EU constitution, whoever wins the election.
Richard, Birmingham

Of course Europe should be an issue. We are supposed to be a democracy and yet the most important political issue of the past forty years has been studiously ignored in every general election by the three main political parties.
Peter Martin-Kaye, Plymouth, Devon

I have a slightly unorthodox stance on the EU - I am fully in favour of integration with the European Union but I am strongly opposed to the Euro, as it encourages globalisation. It is unfortunate that Europe has not become a campaign feature, but there are other pressing issues that are also not brought up.
Andy Shaw, UK

I think it is a scandal that none of the major parties or the national media have raised the question of Europe
Neil Kernick, Kingsteignton
I think it is a scandal that none of the major parties or the national media have raised the question of Europe in this election. Every other issue pales into insignificance, whether it be health, crime or education. Nothing is as important as who governs our country! UKIP is the only party standing up for the British people against rule by the fraudulent European Union.
Neil Kernick, Kingsteignton

Yes, the EU should be an election issue. We entered a common market not an EU state and unless the French and Germans vote No to the Constitution we will gradually lose the power to govern ourselves.
Jim Leighton, Bracknell, England

Yes. I think people need to stop thinking "I want the Euro because I won't have to change currency when I go on holiday" and start thinking about the serious damage it would do to businesses in this country.
Sam Pritchard, Newbury, Berkshire

To correct Susan, from Wokingham's comment, although Churchill was pro-Europe he firmly believed that such a Europe should not include the UK. He wanted the continental countries to join together to ensure a peaceful Germany while the UK aligned more closely with the US.
Daniel Webster, Nottingham, UK

Europe should have been an issue. It is the most important issue.
Sheila Dennis, York, UK

There are so many wrongs with the EU Constitution. We lose our traditions (the pound), we have the potential to lose our heritage (the Royal Family) we lose our diplomatic right (who runs us? Brussels!) I think the EU Constitution is a wrong on so many topics, and the fact that it hasn't featured prominently in the campaign is very ominous and could be a sign that Tony Blair only wishes to speak on such a controversial plan when he's safe in No 10.
Dan Byway, Frome, Somerset

We should join the Euro and a United States of Europe when the past 10 years of EU accounts have been approved by the auditors.
Ferrand, Ludlow

I don't see the point of Europe and I think we should withdraw
Kevin Bedford, West Sussex
I don't see the point of Europe and I think we should withdraw from Europe as we only have a 10% say of what happens. We had more of say 100 years ago when Europe feared us. I say withdraw and let the UK be the UK once more.
Kevin Bedford, West Sussex

I find myself in a terrible dilemma because I know I must vote, but have precious little respect for the three main parties or their Leaders. Because of Iraq I can not vote Labour, so I shall vote for the party that most closely reflects my own views on what I consider to be by far the most important subject - the EU.
Ian R Elliott, Canterbury

What is the point of electing an MP to the democratically elected House of Commons as any legislation can be overruled by the unelected European Commission?
Michael Moore, Steyning, UK

If you don't understand the workings of the EU then how can you even begin to criticise it as a waste of money or a tool for erosion of so-called British identity? I think people have to stop acting on their impulse reactions and look at the situation more objectively.
Gareth Partridge, Maidstone, Kent

The Tories are the only major party who might possibly be against a federal Europe
Rod Pudney, Nounsley, England
The Tories are the only major party who might possibly be against a federal Europe, but if they are they're too scared to admit it, possibly because they took us into it in the first place. I suggest that the Tories promise (not a Blair pledge) to add a question to the Constitution referendum along the lines of "Should Britain leave the EU?". If the majority say "Yes" they can obey the wishes of the public and get us out.
Rod Pudney, Nounsley, England

It's ironic that the man voted as the greatest Briton by the British public, Winston Churchill, was in fact a fervent supporter of a united Europe. He said that he wanted there to be a "United States of Europe". He would undoubtedly deplore the xenophobic and ill-informed comments a lot of us make, having simply absorbed tabloid nonsense.
Susan, Wokingham, UK

I think the French perspective on Europe seems to be that France comes first, and Europe just 'fits' around domestic policy. I think that in the same way, the election should tackle domestic issues first and foremost. But at the end of the day, I think every aspect of public policy now has a 'European' dimension that cannot be treated in isolation from other things. In other words, don't make Europe an issue on its own.
Robert, Bordeaux, France

It probably should be. I don't really care what Labour's policy is because they've already had their chance and missed it as far as I'm concerned. I'm sure anyone else couldn't do any worse if it was an issue or not.
Mark, Southampton, UK

Europe is not an important issue for the UK at this time
John, Tsukuba, Japan
Europe is not an important issue for the UK at this time, the lack of protection towards British industry and identity is. What does it mean to be British anymore?
John, Tsukuba, Japan

All three major parties are intent in taking us into the United States of Europe without the voters' permission through a referendum on the issue. Our democratic rights are being eroded.!
Leslie Daville, Heathfield, East Sussex

Running our own country is a far more important issue than a few million pounds of public spending thrown at various departments. We are slowly throwing away the right to govern ourselves.
Peter Jenkins, Sherborne, Dorset

An election issue, by definition, is an issue on which different parties have distinct views and willing to stick to them. This necessitates serious politicians and enlightened voters. I dare say neither exist in the UK.
Dr Yousef Abdulla, Orpington UK

There is a deafening silence on all constitutional issues: Europe; The House of Lords; Regional Assemblies; the West Lothian question; the Judiciary etc. These are our future and all far more important than the domestic issues being debated.
Brian W, Chelmsford, UK

Europe should be a major election issue as it has a major impact on our economy and working lives
Jamie, UK
Europe should be a major election issue as it has a major impact on our economy and working lives. However defence issues and loss of sovereignty to our US master should also be a major election issue.
Jamie, UK

It's obvious why Europe is being kept out of the campaign. If Labour and the Lib Dems trumpet their views they will lose support and if the Conservatives make an issue of it they will drive support away to UKIP.
Graham Hough, Ayr, Scotland

Europe should be at the top of the agenda because they do it better than we do. Why do people want to hold us back?
Andrew M, Walsall, UK

The British public, in the 1970s, voted to join an economic trade association; not a European superstate. The government lied to us then and I see no reason to believe that it isn't lying now. We will not be a democracy while we are in the EU and this will only worsen Anglo-European relations, not improve them. As the USSR and Yugoslavia proved, central political control over an artificially created country made up of nations with nothing in common, and frequently hostile histories, is not the way to avoid war.
Sally, Sheffield

This election will not, and can not, become a meaningful symbol of British democracy, when not a single candidate of the main parties has mentioned the European Union.
Robert Snare, Guildford

I sincerely hope that Europe remains outside of the election agenda. Debates centred on EU membership are always trivialised and do not allow for well informed and considered debate.
Ray Ansbro, London

Of course it should be an issue - 60% of UK legislation is agreed by the British government in Brussels with other countries before it goes to Westminster. Do you care? Then you should have voted in the European elections last May. Did you? Probably not, because most people, politicians and the media think Europe is boring (i.e. remote and difficult to understand). The lack of debate on Europe (with fingers secretly crossed that the French will torpedo the referendum for us in an act of unintentional entente cordiale) is the silence of the damned.
Rory Macrae, Brussels, Belgium

I suspect the Tories are wary after the flop of focusing on Europe at the last election
Andrew Whitehead, Dvaentry
The fact that the media are not making it an issue is suspicious. The fact that the political parties are not discussing it is even more suspicious. We all know what Labour want but I suspect the Tories are wary after the flop of focusing on Europe at the last election.
Andrew Whitehead, Dvaentry

All the major election issues such as taxation, public services, pensions, crime, immigration and asylum etc are affected by our membership of the EU. Consequently it should be at the top of everyone's agenda.
Kevin O'Brien, Ashford, Kent, England

It seems to me that the politicians of Europe want closer ties, but the people are not sure. Anyway if France reject the constitution next month it nicely gets the British Government out of an possibly embarrassing situation.
Howard, Grimsby, UK

Did anyone else notice that those nice people at the EU have allowed the British Government to put money into a package to help out those affected by the administration at Rover. Isn't that nice of them? If we are not allowed to make that domestic decision on our own what chance do we have on fiscal and foreign policy?
Jim Kirk, Basildon, UK

They have pandered to the irrational and xenophobic elements within our society
Andy, Chester, UK
We decided that our future lies in Europe many years ago. The two main parties have failed us as they have not given us the vision and leadership to take us forward. Rather they have pandered to the irrational and xenophobic elements within our society.
Andy, Chester, UK

In a way, Europe is 'The Issue' because its effects go way over our heads and its tentacles have wriggled into every single area of our British lives. As for me, I hate the EU bureaucratic money eating monster, but support anything that is good for trade.
Trish, London

Since when have governments ever carried out the wishes of the people? I visit the UK regularly and haven't met anyone yet who wants to have anything to do with the EU much less wanting anything to do with the euro. Whatever people think, the new government whether Labour or Conservative, will take us into the euro.
Jean Johnson, Bermuda

Of course it should. The signing of the EU constitution may result in other countries passing laws from Brussels (by majority voting) onto UK businesses, monetary and fiscal policy, education, and other key matters. Whether you are for it or against it, how can something so fundamental be treated with so much contempt by our media?
Darrel, Cardiff

I am quite glad that Europe is not an election issue this year. When Europe has been a feature of election campaigns it has tended to dominate, to the detriment of domestic issues such as public services and the economy - which are far more important. We will get our say on Europe in the expected referendum on the European Constitution, which all main parties have promised to hold after the election. Now let's concentrate on more important matters.
Steve, London

None of the major election issues, such as taxation, public services, including hospitals, schools, railways, nor pensions, crime, asylum seekers or immigration are part of European Union law, nor are they involved in the proposed constitutional treaty which has no coercive powers. The opposition of the Tories and UKIP on the question of sovereignty is bogus. The elections priorities prove it.
Michael Lake, Hereford

What we need is more honest and open discussions
Mike L-J, Plymouth, England
Yes, it most certainly is an issue, an extremely important issue. The reason the three main parties are not prepared to make it an issue however, is very simple, it is a far too divisive, not just amongst the electorate, but within the political parties themselves. I am close to sixty years of age and I remember when this all started with 'simple trading agreements', the EEC. Now look where we are. The EU constitution is just one more step towards a single European State. What we need is more honest and open discussions here to see exactly where the entire EU super strategy is taking the UK citizens.
Mike L-J, Plymouth, England

If Europe is not an election issue then presumably that is how our masters in Brussels want it.
Reid Sommerville, Newbury, Berks

It is a major failing of the political parties that they have not managed to offer the electorate a clear choice on the future course of European integration since the referendum on joining the EEC.
Eve Johansson, Yorkshire, UK

It's unbelievable that a key issue that could decide the future of Britain more than any other issue is simply ignored by the parties. It makes me want to set up my own party!
Ash Horne, Hay-on-Wye, UK

Europe is an essential part of ANY informed debate for the general election
Roger Carter, Windsor, UK
With the bulk of Acts of Parliament now being simply to enact legislation in the UK as required by the EU, Europe is one of the most important election issues. The narrowness of the election campaign issues reflects how few areas the UK government now has control over. Europe is an essential part of ANY informed debate for the general election.
Roger Carter, Windsor, UK

All foreign policy should be an election issue. Unfortunately, neither New Labour nor the Tories want to discuss the invasion of Iraq, or the mess of Afghanistan. Also, our foreign secretary seems to have done a disappearing act, so until Europe can stand as an issue on its own it's hard to imagine that it will be discussed.
Daffers, Brighton, UK

Daffers, Brighton: Afghanistan has been a mess since Alexander the Great invaded it. Blaming Tony Blair for the failings of the past 3,000 years seems somewhat harsh. If you want to blame anyone blame the Soviets - Blair wasn't even an MP when they attacked the Afghans.
Peter, Nottingham

It's difficult to see how Europe can be an election issue when the level of ignorance is so high. This incidentally is not just a British failing. Here in the Netherlands, people are equally confused or just plain ambivalent. The need for a real informed debate has however never been greater and it seems that many of Europe's politicians are afraid to let that particular genie out of its bottle.
David, UK/ Netherlands

Europe is central to how we are run
Andrew, London
It is as though "Europe" is a separate issue from the rest of politics, but it is not. Europe decides our immigration policy, our industrial policy, our economic policy, our environmental policy and much more. It influences our tax rates and foreign policy. Europe is central to how we are run.
Andrew, London

The EU is one of the most important aspects affecting life in this country and to sweep it under the carpet in a general election is an insult.
Les, Morpeth, England

Of course it should be an issue. With the EU constitution going to vote in France at the end of the month, and no doubt Britain soon after, it must be an issue. The further we venture into the European ideal, the harder it will be to reverse any policies as we see fit.
Ed, London, UK

Being in my late thirties, I have never had a say about any of the EC, then EU treaties, and talking to those who were old enough to vote to join the Common Market have told me, if they had been told that the aspirations of the politicians was to move closer towards a superstate they would have never voted in favour. It would be better for Britain to have a referendum on staying in the EU, rather than promises that may never happen, whilst behind the scenes, more powers are being signed away by stealth to nameless officials in Brussels.
Dave, Hertford, Herts

Yes, the three main parties are committed to Europe, and won't mention it because they have agreed to give up too much power to Brussels. The reasons the Tories lost power was the ERM, the proto Euro, and all three parties want that. Vote UKIP and let us out.
John, UK

It's time to stand up and fight again for our long cherished freedoms and parliamentary sovereignty
John Davies, Woking, UK
I am extremely concerned that the EU is not being discussed as much as it should be, and I feel much of middle and thinking England is smouldering with anger at the ignoring of this stealth war being waged on the citizens of all countries of the current EU. The UK Parliament has to ratify laws and directives sent to it by the EU accounting for 70% of laws passed in this parliament, unless thrown out by all representatives, or face extreme financial consequences in addition to our already high net contribution to the EU Budget. It's time to stand up and fight again for our long cherished freedoms and parliamentary sovereignty before this nightmare gets any more serious than it is already, and before we get to the stage where Westminster might as well retire.
John Davies, Woking, UK

I believe that the three main parties have a secret pact not to talk about Europe issue because it would soon become clear that none of them can deliver much of what they are promising because we are now being ruled from Brussels. It would be helpful if journalists started asking questions about Europe.
Stan Masters, Leatherhead, Surrey

It seems ridiculous in such an important transitory period for the EU it is not brought up as an election issue
Andrew Prudames, Leeds, UK
It seems ridiculous in such an important transitory period for the EU it is not brought up as an election issue. Along with this however it is appalling how poorly informed people are on the issue of Europe and how little effort is made to provide even a basic education on the subject. As a student of European Politics it is so frustrating to see the debate still being dogged by prejudice and dogma as opposed to a rational and well argued debate. Whichever side you sit on over the European issue you should at least hold this opinion based on an educated point of view. I fear that when the time comes for a referendum, prejudice and ignorance will severely impair the result.
Andrew Prudames, Leeds, UK

I am quite concerned that Europe has not been an issue for the major parties because so much is at stake. I think this election campaign is being driven by policies that are closer to home because voters identify more readily with them and can see a link to how their own lives would be affected. The party that successfully links European issues with the day to day life of the man in the street will be in the forefront of any debates on Europe. The Tories seem to be dictating the subjects up for debate more and more in this election run up, and it is understandable that they don't want to talk about Europe, given that they can't even agree a coherent policy amongst themselves.
Sarah, Stirling

We are in Europe and there should be no more prevarication
Brian Bevan, Rugeley Staffs
NO. it should not. We are in Europe and there should be no more prevarication. The pound should go to the Euro. etc Either we are in or out. If out then we have to go it alone, I dread the consequences should we do that. We must join wholeheartedly and enjoys the fruits that can be had.
Brian Bevan, Rugeley Staffs

I am greatly concerned that the European Union has not been raised as an issue in the forthcoming general election for it plays such a big part in every European's life. So many good things like human rights and social justice (which were formerly absent in UK) flow from it, and politicians ought to defend it against any attack. To see that only UKIP are campaigning on the issue makes me sad, for they believe in old-fashioned ideas of sovereignty and independence, but everyone I speak to over here is a strong believer in more integration.
Emily Frosham, Warsaw, Poland (formerly UK)