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?