If the recent EU series of near-disasters has left you searching for some respite, think again: there are two threats ahead that could well transform into a systemic crisis. Indeed, after the near-collapse of the EU-bond market, the high drama of Grexit, and the mass refugee tragedy, the worst might be yet to come.
The first storm is the impending danger of a Brexit later this year. Although not official yet, Downing Street sources indicate the referendum is planned for June or July 2016. Unsurprisingly, with every day passing, EU membership becomes an ever tougher sell in the United Kingdom. Here’s why.
First, there’s the UK Independence Party. In the last elections they won 13 percent of votes, nearly four million, by campaigning on a severely anti-EU platform. It cost the governing Conservatives a good deal of seats in parliament; since that election the anti-EU wing within the Conservative party have strengthened: voices within the party are ever more louder to move decisively to the right, away from the EU, in search of lost voters.
To make matters worse, don’t expect Downing Street 10 to come to a help. The internal political situation came to a tense height two weeks ago, when PM David Cameron decided his cabinet ministers could individually choose whether to back the government standpoint in support of EU accession. It permits cabinet members to publicly campaign for a no-vote; expect them to use that freely and loudly, out of political ambition (and survival).
For the OUT-campaign, this summer’s migrant crisis could not have come at a better time. They will use it to their fullest advantage, playing into fears of insecurity. It will serve as a powerful illustration to their view of a dysfunctional EU that is without border and order.
And for a famously EU-skeptical nation (remember the fuss about connecting the island with a tunnel?), the U.K.’s affair with the Old Continent has never been one of passionate love, rather more an arranged marriage. For a long time, UK foreign policy’s strategy was in effect ‘splendid isolation’.
Should the U.K. leave the EU it would seriously undermine the EU’s credibility as a grand project of shared values. The recent members would profoundly challenge the EU’s founding principle of enforcing rules through shared sovereignty.
So to Cameron: all the best campaigning out there. Should it fail, as it could very well, he will have only himself to blame for in the first place suggesting a referendum that secured him a second term in office.
The great English statesman Benjamin Disraeli said it best: ‘How much easier it is to be critical than to be correct’.
Next storm up is further away: Turkey and the speeded-up accession negotiations.