By Hugo Dixon
Hugo Dixon is Editor-at-Large, Reuters News. The opinions expressed are his own.
If the Scots vote to leave the UK in September, that could trigger a chain reaction which leads to the rest of the UK quitting the European Union. This is a threat British pro-Europeans need to take seriously given that a Scottish independence vote is quite possible, though the chances are still less than 50 percent.
Were it not for the Scotland factor, the risk of a so-called Brexit – Britain’s exit from the EU – would be receding. A string of business leaders have in recent months come out and argued that the economy would be damaged if the UK lost full access to the EU’s single market.
All the opinion polls by YouGov since the start of March have shown a lead, varying between 2 and 6 percentage points, for Britain wanting to stay in the EU. In the previous year, YouGov’s polls were consistently in favour of pulling out with one showing a lead of 17 points for the “Out” campaign.
This switch-around has happened despite the fact that the UK Independence Party, which wants to pull out of the EU, is expected to get the most votes in this month’s European Parliament elections. UKIP’s rise, on the back of leader Nigel Farage’s formidable debating skills, seems driven more by disaffection with London politics and immigration than a strong desire to quit the EU.