Don’t bet on the Eurosceptics to win the argument

Britain has a new government. While David Cameron and the Conservative Party added less than one per cent to their national share of the vote, they have returned to power with a majority. This may be a majority of only 12 seats and the slimmest since 1974, but it is still a majority.

The World Today Published 12 June 2015 Updated 4 January 2021 3 minute READ

Professor Matthew Goodwin

Former Visiting Senior Fellow, Europe Programme

This marks the fulfilment of Cameron’s promise in his 2013 Bloomberg speech to hold a referendum after renegotiating aspects of Britain’s EU membership.

The promised vote reflects lingering anxieties in Britain over its precise relationship with Europe, which since the last referendum in 1975 have not been fully resolved. But in the more recent past Cameron’s pledge was also an attempt to fend off two competing pressures: Conservative backbench Eurosceptics who have long been agitating for a referendum, and Eurosceptic voters who ever since 2010 have been defecting to the UK Independence Party. While the outcome of the election appears to have temporarily pacified the former, the fact that UKIP finished in third place with almost 13 per cent of the national vote underlines the continuing threat from the latter. But to what extent has the referendum combined with UKIP’s continued support and economic problems in the eurozone made Britain’s exit from the EU a real danger?

Subscribe to read all issues

Articles from the current issue are free to read by all, the archive is exclusive to magazine subscribers and our members. Subscribe or become a member to view articles from the archive.