Editorial: Some sense on Europe, at last

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The Independent Online

With Britain's place in Europe more uncertain now than at any time for 40 years, it can only be welcome that the far-reaching consequences of a departure from the EU are being spelled out so loudly. Perhaps, between the warnings of the US government and those from a weighty section of our own business community, those clamouring for the UK to go it alone might – finally – be given pause for thought.

US diplomats' caution against endangering our membership of the EU is a timely one. Washington's bafflement at who to call when wanting to talk to Europe is well documented. Since the 1970s, the answer to the question has often been Britain. Sever the link, however, and not just the "special relationship" but also our broader geopolitical position will be materially damaged. The message from the business community is hardly less forceful, with high-profile figures including Richard Branson warning of the economic destabilisation that would result from our withdrawal.

Faced with the far-reaching upheavals of the euro crisis, the ever-increasing Euroscepticism of even mainstream Conservative MPs and the rise of the UK Independence Party, David Cameron finds himself with less and less room to manoeuvre on the issue. Thus far, the Prime Minister has tried to strike a balance, maintaining his commitment to Britain's remaining within the EU even as he reiterates his desire for a looser relationship with key powers "repatriated" from Brussels. But the pressure is building. And his long-awaited speech on the subject of Europe – now expected later this month – is likely to give the nod to a referendum after the 2015 election, which will be cheered by his Eurosceptic colleagues.

It was always naive to imagine that anti-Europe ideologues would give much thought to the arguments presented by their political opponents. With the case in favour of Britain remaining in Europe now being made by two more sympathetic constituencies, perhaps at last the alternative view will gain a hearing.