So long as political power within the European Union is weak and decentralized, Britain’s ultra-conservatives can tolerate being members of the club.
They get secure access to a gigantic market and participate as equals in decisions that usually require unanimity. They keep their currency and their conceit that the UK is still a first-tier power with its own unique way of doing things.
Despite their head shaking, British Tories can live with being members of a bureaucratic organization; they’re good at that. Their Commonwealth, monarchy, and House of Lords are all show and no beef.
Fear of dissolution and the unfinished necessity of creating a viable fiscal as well as monetary union, however, are raising the possibility that Europe will steadily come together as an effective federation—in which a substantial amount of power is centralized.
And in which Britain will be respected, but not as feared as Germany.
That kind of club—a federation eventually along the lines of the United States of America, which they thought would fall apart sometime in the 19th century—is not at all to their liking. So, they’re pushing for a national referendum in the hope of pulling the UK out of the European community all together.
To his credit, Prime Minister David Cameron is still rejecting the idea.
“Mr. Cameron said it was essential that Britain did not just have access to the single market but that it played a role in shaping its rules. He said he would not swap Britain’s position for that of a country like Norway which “only has access” to the single market.
“But in a sign of his precarious political balancing act, Mr. Cameron also refused to rule out the possibility of one day giving British people a choice on whether to follow the Norwegian model by leaving the EU altogether.”
It’s ironic that Cameron would shrink at the prospect of living like a Norwegian. That’s exactly the status Tories in Britain and Tories in Canada have pressed on Canadians ever since the United States was formed.
Like Norway, Canada was always too small (and, as individuals, probably too nice) to be full-fledged, vote for vote, members of a greater liberal democratic federation.
They rallied against economic and political integration with the US because it was too liberal. Now, they dismiss the EU because it’s bureaucratic.
Let’s hope Cameron doesn’t back down and that he decides to re-embrace the unfinished work of building a workable European federation.
It’s only a pity Canada’s Stephen Harper isn’t engaged in a similar fight with the defeatist dogma of his Tory forefathers.