Reforming the European Union involves more than renegotiating the UK’s relationship with it. That may sound like a statement of the obvious. But in the British debate over staying in the EU the two have virtually become equivalent, largely because David Cameron, the newly re-elected prime minister, has promised to renegotiate Britain’s relationship with the EU before holding a referendum on continued membership.
David Cameron looks to be preparing for the possibility that his plan to renegotiate Britain’s relationship with the European Union will fail. The UK prime minister would then campaign for the country to quit the EU in a referendum he plans to hold by 2017. That seems the best way to interpret his appointment of a eurosceptic foreign minister and the nomination of a little-known former lobbyist as Britain’s European commissioner.
A year after David Cameron promised a referendum on EU membership, the British prime minister and his Conservative party are alienating potential allies across the Channel. He needs to pitch reforms that benefit the whole bloc, not just pander to eurosceptics. Otherwise an “Out” vote looks more likely.