Prime Minister David Cameron's decision to hold a referendum on the UK’s membership in the EU could bring down his government, destroy his political party, and tear his country apart. In other words, Cameron could end up being remembered as the worst leader in British history.
LONDON – The European question is the grim reaper of British politics – dividing parties, debilitating governments, and destroying careers. But never before have the stakes surrounding the question been so high. Prime Minister David Cameron’s decision to hold a referendum – perhaps as early as June – on the United Kingdom’s continued membership in the European Union could bring down his government, destroy his political party, and literally tear his country apart.
Cameron is doing all he can to renegotiate the terms of membership in order to persuade voters to choose to remain in the EU. But referendums are notoriously unpredictable. And there is no reason to believe that the storms of populism blowing across the continent will not make landfall in the UK.
A decision to leave the EU would fall like a sledgehammer on the British economy and greatly diminish its international stature. Far worse, it could lead to the dissolution of the UK. The Scottish National Party has threatened to hold a second independence referendum if British voters decide to leave the EU. This, the SNP’s leaders argue, would allow an independent Scotland to remain part of Europe, even as England, Wales, and Northern Ireland set out on their own.
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