LONDON – Among the multiple existential challenges facing the European Union this year – refugees, populist politics, German-inspired austerity, government bankruptcy in Greece and perhaps Portugal – one crisis is well on its way to resolution. Britain will not vote to leave the EU.
This confident prediction may seem to be contradicted by polls showing roughly 50% support for “Brexit” in the June referendum. And British public opinion may move even further in the “Out” direction for a while longer, as euroskeptics ridicule the “new deal” for Britain agreed at the EU summit on February 19.
Nonetheless, it is probably time for the world to stop worrying. The politics and economics of the question virtually guarantee that British voters will back EU membership, even though this may not become apparent in public opinion polls until a few weeks, or even days, before the vote.
To understand the dynamics that strongly favor an “In” vote, start with the politics. Until this month’s deal, Britain’s leaders were not seriously making the case against Brexit. After all, Prime Minister David Cameron and his government had to pretend that they would contemplate a breakup if the EU rejected their demands.