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2/19/16

Brexit - EU: Will Britain Stay in the EU? - by Judy Dempsey

"To Be Or Not To Be"
Yes, absolutely, although the result of the forthcoming referendum on Britain’s EU membership will be closer than that of the in-or-out vote in 1975, when 67 percent of Brits voted to remain in the common market.

British Prime Minister David Cameron, supported by Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne and Home Secretary Theresa May, needs to appeal to the Euroskeptic Conservative heartlands and neutralize the 100-plus Tory backbenchers who favor a Brexit regardless of the deal to renegotiate Britain’s EU membership achieved by the prime minister.

The leaders of the opposition Labour Party, the centrist Liberal Democrats, and the separatist Scottish National Party need to appeal to their respective voters. It is a big plus that unlike in 1975, the Scottish nationalists today are fully in favor of staying in the EU.

The unions, most of business, academia, and the intellectual class also want to remain. The campaign to leave is divided and leaderless, with Nigel Farage of the anti-EU UK Independence Party (UKIP) a busted flush. The Euroskeptic press is not as influential as it thinks.

But it would be foolish not to recognize the inherent dangers of referenda (ask the Irish!) and the widespread antiestablishment feeling in the UK. There is no room for complacency. The campaign to remain should concentrate on the benefits that the UK gains from the EU and not on the fear of exclusion. But at present it does not look like there will be a positive visionary campaign.

The saddest thing of all, however, is that just like in 1975, the upcoming referendum will not end the poisonous EU debate in the UK. And just as the Labour Party suffered deep divisions a few years after the 1975 referendum, so the Conservatives could split even before the current parliamentary term ends in 2020.

Plus ça change.

Read more: Judy Asks: Will Britain Stay in the EU? - Carnegie Europe - Carnegie Endowment for International Peace

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