As the country emerges traumatised from one referendum, so another approaches. In the event, and at some considerable political cost, David Cameron got away with the timing, wording and options of the Scotland referendum. The vote he has promised on the UK’s membership of the European Union looks, if anything, even more ill-judged and ill-starred.
As a distinguished group of individuals across all parties points out in The Independent, Mr Cameron’s proposed plebiscite is, unlike the one in Scotland, entirely unnecessary. European leaders have already agreed a plan of reform for the EU for the next five years, and this addresses many concerns legitimately held about the way the EU works. In particular, there is a plan to deal with Europe’s economic sclerosis, which is at the very root of all its financial crises. No European political leader seriously denies that reform is essential and inevitable. So what Mr Cameron is supposed to be “renegotiating” has already been settled.
Snared by the hook of his referendum promise, Mr Cameron is trapped on a course that will certainly be disastrous for his party, and could easily prove just as damaging for the country. Exit from the EU could quite easily occur, almost by accident. We have seen in Scotland the effect an unpopular Conservative government can have on a vote on much wider issues, with the ostensible arguments in a referendum being easily overwhelmed by domestic concerns. And then things really start to go wrong.
Mr Cameron is asking his party and the electorate to underwrite the enormous gamble he is taking with the British economy; and all in a futile attempt to outflank Ukip in anti-Europeanism, something he is unlikely ever to achieve.Reuse content