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27 february 2014, sleepwalking towards the exit

Thursday, February 27th, 2014

This is clearly the phrase du jour on britain and europe at the moment, and was implied when angela merkel spoke today to britain's 1, 500 or so parliamentarians, though she clearly doesn't think it may happen. It may. As the uk's finance minister, and second in command, has made very clear, the ruling centre-right conservatives will go into the election on 7 may 2015 with a pretty cast-iron guarantee to hold a referendum on whether britain should stay in or leave. While the centre-left labour are so far holding the line, they are hardly enthusiastic and the pressure on them going into the election will intensify massively. A significant slice of labourites and a big and ever-larger slug of conservatives will anyway be voting openly to go. Even those, like the prime minister, who say they want to be able to vote to stay in, say they will do so only on the basis of negotiating a substantially reformed eu, details of which stubbornly refuse to emerge, though it should limit freedom of movement and give the uk some sort of additional veto rights, "if you cannot protect the collective interests of [britain], then [we] will have to choose between joining the eurozone, which the uk will not do, or leave the european union." The hope is that this threat will increase the chances of such substantial change from effectively zero. However, those "wellwishers" are going to be left either defending a "reform" package that is little more than window dressing, or crossing over to say we tried but we failed, so we're better off out. In any case, whatever politicians say, evidence points more and more to a referendum being totally unwinnable, meaning if we have one, the uk will leave. The inability to change now what will in this way become an inevitability, is exactly sleepwalking towards the exit.