U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron addressed the British people about the magnitude of their decision in an up-and-coming 2017 referendum, “You will hold this country’s destiny in your hands; this is a huge decision for our country, perhaps the biggest…in our lifetimes.”
In the referendum, voters will determine whether or not the United Kingdom will remain a part of the European Union. The British departure from the EUis being dubbed Brexit, a portmanteau of “British” and “Exit.” Cameron is allowing his cabinet members to campaign in support of their stances for leaving or staying in the EU.
Not only does the British public have to make a choice but the ministers also have to choose a stance as well. For his part, Cameron desires the United Kingdom to remain part of the EU.
His promise of holding a plebiscite came about three years ago in an attempt to maintain order within his own Conservative party, specifically with the right wing faction that desires separation.
It was his party’s election manifesto that a referendum would be held. However, Cameron has waited to put the issue to a public vote until Britain could renegotiate for concessions before leaving the EU altogether.
Specifically, Cameron has four main views, which he laid out in a published letter.
Firstly, Britain wants to be free from entanglement in further political integration with the rest of Europe.
Secondly, Britain wants greater sovereignty through an increased capacity to block EU legislation.
Thirdly, Cameron wants to protect the U.K. from experiencing any economic disadvantages through the securing of an explicit recognition that the euro is not the sole currency utilized within the EU.
Fourthly, Cameron seeks to place restrictions on migrants’ access to work benefits by taking away an incentive to migrate to the United Kingdom.
Indeed, this last demand will likely prove the most difficult, especially in the face of economic hard times on the continent of Europe.
These circumstances have driven many migrants to Britain to seek work in the country’s relatively strong economy. Furthermore, Britain’s demand would fly in the face of one of the EU’s basic principles.
Fundamentally, the EUsupports the principle of freedom of the movement of labor and workers within its member countries. If Cameron cannot attain an exemption, he would potentially have to apply limits on access to work benefits to not only migrants but also his own British citizenry.
Such a move would prove unpopular, so Britain would likely move towards leaving the EU as an alternative. Nevertheless, the referendum is ultimately the decision of British voters.
Among the British public, about 40 percent of voters favor withdrawal from the EU
Supporters of this viewpoint contend that the EU is inhibiting the United Kingdom through its exorbitant membership fees and restriction on business.
Right wing members of the Conservative Party have taken this stance in opposition of their party leader and prime minister, David Cameron.
Cameron’s prerogative to remain in the EU is supported by the Labour Party and Liberal Democrats.
With such drastic differences on stances between Conservatives, the referendum could prove divisive to the party.
The potential for division is especially relevant considering Cameron is allowing ministers to campaign for either side, a move supported by those campaigning for the United Kingdom to leave the EU. Former deputy prime minister Lord Hesetine predicts a civil war within the government if officials are allowed to oppose each other rather than come together as a united front.
Either outcome of the referendum could leave the Conservative Party split. A vote to leave the EU could diminish Conservative leadership, while a vote to remain could create bitter divisions within the party.
The future of the U.K. within the EU still remains uncertain.