EU Referendum: Three More Years

Last week’s attempted putsch by Adam Afriyie to bring the proposed EU referendum forward by three years looks to be a staggering failure. Conservative MP’s of every persuasion lined up to criticise him, the Home Secretary explained to Andrew Marr how he had “got it wrong” and Downing Street eventually extinguished any hope of success in the rebellion by explaining the referendum would not be held in 2014 under any circumstances.

Afriyie’s motives seem a combination of monomania and dogmatic anti-Europeanism. He expressed how he could not sleep at night, knowing that there was a chance the referendum, put forward by David Cameron, would not come to fruition. It is also no secret that Afriyie has his eyes on the top job himself, despite, as was clearly seen in this instance, lacking any real support.
This fear however, that the referendum may never happen, is a cause for concern for some. The vast majority of the public are in favour of the referendum, and even the Labour party, nominal supporters of the EU, can see the benefit of putting the issue to bed once and for all. No government can bind the actions of its successors, and thus after 2015 there will be no obligation for the government, whatever that looks like, to have a referendum in 2017.

What would a referendum now look like? Every opinion poll since 2010, bar a few, has had the ‘out’ camp roundly beating the ‘in’ camp. It is quite probable that a referendum held in October 2014 would see the UK ejecting itself from the community.
Strangely, the British public are, together with a handful of increasingly irrelevant specimens of print journalism and a handful of politicians generally on the extremes, are essentially the only groups actually in favour of leaving the community.
The international community is fairly unanimous. Obama has said he would prefer to deal with the UK if it was within Europe. Japan’s premier, Abe was forthcoming with arguments for a UK to remain in Europe when the UK government asked for contributions. Merkel, Barrosso and Hollande as well as a plethora of European leaders have also been doing their best to convince a sceptical British public of the communities benefits.

UK firms also feel that they are better in the EU than without it. Of over 400 firms polled, nearly 80% backed remaining within the EU, citing ease of trade and movement as the most beneficial aspects of the union. There have also been warnings from the City and major international firms about the damaging impact such a move would invariably have on the UK economy.
The threat of economic fallout upon the leaving of the union, which would at the very least steam roll the frail economic recovery, is the ace up the sleeve for the ‘in’ group. It is hard to defend the structure and practices of the EU especially when the British public has been so routinely misinformed on the matter for decades.

An early referendum looks like it would have led to victory to the ‘out’ camp, but as the chances of a 2014 referendum collapse in on themselves; we have three years to put forward the argument for continuing to be a member of, and crucially, a reformer of, the European Union.