Is Britain On Its Way Out Of The EU?

In its election manifesto, the Conservative Party promised a referendum on the UK’s membership of the European Union. This is scheduled to be held some time before 2017, and for the first time in years a significant perecentage of the population are  in favour of the UK leaving. The issue has lately consumed the activity of Prime Minister David Cameron, who is in the midst of a complex negotiating process, attempting to see if the UK-EU relationship can be restructured rather than severed.

The latest step in that process was a speech Cameron gave in London about the status of the negotiations. It was an interesting speech, largely focused on the perceived issue of inequality. Essentially, Cameron is supporting an argument whereby the rest of the UK would be unable to take advantage of pay supplements currently available to UK workers for another four years. But even beyond this issue, which has often been cited as discriminatory, there are a number of tricky demands and arguments in place. While he appears to still be working for an altered union, Cameron has indicated that he won’t shy away from leaving Europe if it becomes necessary. The overall impression from his speech is that chances of a Brexit remain high.

The speech was also the latest public sign of the juggling act Cameron has to manage between his own goals and those of his party. The Conservative Party in Britain, formerly the Tory Party, has been the one to bring up an exit from the EU over the years, and indeed is even responsible for forcing the coming referendum in the first place. As the leader of the Conservative Party, Cameron is in a position in which he has to at least be open to the Brexit idea, even if it holds the potential to mark a controversial and potentially problematic final mark on his political legacy. Again, for the time being Cameron appears to be primarily focused on securing a restructured form of EU membership for his country. However, pressure from the Conservative Party isn’t going away.

For the party, which largely favors the idea of a Brexit regardless of the state of Cameron’s negotiations, failure by the Prime Minister to see his demands met leaves virtually no choice. Speaking about Cameron’s demands (which he appears to view as very minor and reasonable), prominent MP (Member of Parliament) Steve Baker said not long ago that he “would be amazed if a majority of Conservative MPs don’t campaign” if the demands are not met. Baker’s word is not final, but he is the Co-Chairman of a group within the Conservative party that’s instrumental in the push for a new relationship with the EU, and thus his perspective is noteworthy.

Meanwhile, there is also growing support for the idea that a Brexit would not, as some believe it could, hurt the British economy. There’s no precedent in the modern era for something like what would occur with the Brexit, so there is an understood element of the unknown when it comes to analyzing the potential effects both in the UK and in Europe. Still, a few financial analysts and prominent banking figures have played down skepticism about how the British economy would move forward. Most recently, Bank of England Governor Mark Carney stated that the BoE could make it work, and that their job was to remain functional regardless of the UK-EU relationship.

In the end, many still believe a Brexit is unlikely, and that the EU and UK will ultimately strike some sort of suitable balance. But the tone surrounding the negotiations of late suggests that the Brexit has at least become a very real possibility.

About the author

Amanda Cole