The Thick of It


Wednesday, September 07, 2011

Will Cameron take Britain out of the EU?

The profile of Tory MPs is now weighted towards those in favour of the UK pulling out of the EU. As news reports show them getting more serious about organising their anti-European campaigning, will David Cameron be made to pay for buying their votes to win his leadership election?

At today's prime minister's questions, when asked by Tory MP Mark Reckless if Britain should pull out of the EU Cameron repeated his oft muttered line that the UK needs to re-assess its relationship with the EU to get the best deal from it.

What does this mean for Britain's future relationship with the EU? Anti-Europe Tory MPs want out and they are a sizeable bunch. They are already frustrated at the influence of the pro-European Lib Dems on a government they'd prefer to be pure-Tory. This leaves them without influence both because Cameron has to compromise with his coalition partners to stay in power and also because those Lib Dem votes mean he doesn't need to compromise with his own Tory right wing to get his legislation through.

My expectation is that their calls for a drastic pull out will fall on deaf ears as Cameron like those before him realises that to do so isn't easy or advisable. Continued problems in the Eurozone will weaken the current EU model but not fatally. The stronger northern European economies such as Germany, Britain and the Nordics will be able to exert more influence than those which have been ripped apart by the collapse of their economies.  

This means Britain can become more powerful and gain more from throwing its weight around. I expect Cameron to make the most of that but to keep Britain in the EU. If he wins a slim majority at a 2015 election his position will be weakened and that of the anti-Europeans in his party strengthened leaving the prospect of am more anti-European government than that of John Major who had more pro-Europeans for support than Cameron will have.

Cameron doesn't want to take Britain out of the EU but his party wants him to. At the moment they don't have the power but that could all change.

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