David Cameron will on Wednesday set a deadline to hold an in-out referendum on Britain’s membership of the European Union by the end of 2017 as he hardens his position on the issue that has bedevilled Tory leaders for a quarter of a century.
To the delight of Eurosceptics, the prime minister will throw down the gauntlet to his fellow EU leaders to agree to a revision of Britain’s membership terms within two and a half years of the next general election or risk triggering a British exit.
In his long-awaited speech on Europe, which has been repeatedly delayed since the autumn, Cameron will pledge no rest until he wins because democratic consent for the EU in Britain is “wafer thin”.
The prime minister will say: “The next Conservative manifesto in 2015 will ask for a mandate from the British people for a Conservative government to negotiate a new settlement with our European partners in the next parliament.
And when we have negotiated that new settlement, we will give the British people a referendum with a very simple in or out choice to stay in the EU on these new terms; or come out altogether. It will be an in-out referendum.
The hypocrisy inherent in suggesting that Britain should get out of the EU because there’s a “democracy deficiency” in being even partly ruled from abroad while saying that Scotland shouldn’t take the same exit in respect to being ruled from London never ceases to amaze me. For the Unionists. the story is always that Scotland – alone of all nations – cannot afford to be a nation alone without the guiding economic hand of London (yeah, the one that has so badly failed).
Take a look back at November 2011 when Conservative Chancellor George Osborne claimed that the prospect of an independence referendum was damaging the Scottish economy.
On the bright side, nationalist Englishmen twisting themselves in knots trying to simultaneously defend a rump-UK exit from the EU and say Scotland has no good reasons to exit the British Union will only be a source of limitless material for the Scottish independence campaign.
P.S. No, “devo-max” is not a credible option for Scotland – maybe Cameron should suggest it to his tory Colonel Blimpish brethren for the rump UK in Europe. That could be his political swan song.