Europe's Endgame: Within a Decade, Britain Will Hold a Referendum on Membership of the European Union-And the Yes Campaign Will Find Its Arguments Enfeebled by Lack of Exercise. Will Anyone Dare Make the Pro-EU Case?
Behr, Rafael, New Statesman (1996)
It is getting harder to make the case for Britain's membership of the European Union for the practical reason that the alliance is changing faster than arguments in favour of it can be devised. The crisis in the eurozone will result in either a messy unravelling of the single currency or its renewal through deeper economic and political integration. Either way, the EU will be transformed and new rules of engagement between Britain and the rest of the continent will have to be set. The pressure to offer that revised arrangement to the public in a referendum will be irresistible.
Most Conservative MPs now fully expect their party's next manifesto to include the pledge of a vote on EU membership. Labour and the Liberal Democrats doubt they can avoid making the same offer, although they tend to be less enthusiastic about the idea.
The plebiscite is a demand usually made by opponents of Britain's EU membership. Supporters have always feared the potency of the sceptics' rhetoric of national liberation. They mistrust the campaigning efficacy of arguments based on trade advantage and fear of diplomatic isolation.
The pro-Europeans' reluctance to popularise their cause and their readiness to denounce their opponents as cranks and xenophobes has confirmed a small but vocal minority in the conviction that Brussels is an elite conspiracy against the common citizen.
Pro-Europeanism in Britain is as much a habit of government as an ideological position. Successive administrations inherit the legal and bureaucratic edifice of Continental entanglement and decide, on advice from civil servants, that acquiescence is the easiest path. That is as true of David Cameron's government as it was of Gordon Brown's and Tony Blair's. The difference is that Cameron has no permission from his party to make compromises for Europe's sake. Cameron is also unlucky to be in power during the biggest crisis in the history of the EU. The misfortune is compounded by the lack of attention he paid to Brussels before he entered Downing Street.
The Conservative leader has tended to view his party's hatred of the EU as a dangerous obsession - an old marching tune from the party's days parading up and down the unelectable …
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Publication information: Article title: Europe's Endgame: Within a Decade, Britain Will Hold a Referendum on Membership of the European Union-And the Yes Campaign Will Find Its Arguments Enfeebled by Lack of Exercise. Will Anyone Dare Make the Pro-EU Case?. Contributors: Behr, Rafael - Author. Magazine title: New Statesman (1996). Volume: 141. Issue: 5106 Publication date: May 21, 2012. Page number: 22+. © Not available. COPYRIGHT 2012 Gale Group.