After months of promises, Prime Minister David Cameron delivered his keynote address on Britain’s future with the European Union on Wednesday. The speech was deft and nimble, smartly created to placate both Euroskeptics and Europhiles—and to buy time. It was, by virtually all reports, a smashing success.
Britain’s swelling anti-Europe movement will get the opportunity to vote the United Kingdom out of the EU in a straightforward “in/out” referendum. However, the referendum will take place only after Britain has renegotiated a new relationship with the EU. This gives the Europhiles the opportunity to concoct an agreement with Brussels that is palatable to Britain’s public. In short, an in/out referendum will happen, but not till 2017.
And there’s the rub.
This world, particularly Europe, is so fragile, so uncertain and volatile—financially, politically, socially, you name it—it’s impossible to plan five months ahead, let alone five years!
Mr. Cameron delivered his speech with such authority and confidence, as if he’s in total control of the United Kingdom’s future with Europe. To be sure, a leader must project sureness and authority, and responsible governments do plan long-term. But the world is undergoing historic challenges and momentous changes right now. In particular, Europe’s political and financial landscape is rapidly transforming. The Continent, as Trumpet columnist Ron Fraser recently wrote, will look radically different by the end of 2013.
Chances are, the question of the United Kingdom’s future in Europe will be decided not in 2017, but this year!
Perhaps the most significant issue that will have bearing on Britain’s relationship with Europe is the financial crisis, which is far from over. Paolo Manasse, professor of macroeconomics at the University of Bologna, wrote recently, “Despite apparent calm on the financial markets, no illusions that the storm is ending soon should be entertained. Indeed, we may well be in the eye of the hurricane.”
Don’t listen to European leaders proclaiming that the crisis is finished. Their words are hollow. Many of Europe’s economies continue to shrink. Unemployment in many countries is dangerously high and still rising. In Spain, the unemployment rate of under-25s is now 60 percent! Debt, national and private, looms ominously over prospects of new growth. The euro remains on its deathbed. “The longer-term prospects for the survival of the euro not only are not improving, they are actually getting worse,” concluded Manasse. This crisis will radically change the way Europe looks and operates, financially and politically.
Not in three or four years’ time, but within weeks and months!
“How this will end is anybody’s guess but it is hard to believe it can go on for five more years because the ruling parties of the victim nations [mostly southern states] are losing legitimacy month by month,” wrote the Telegraph’s Ambrose Evans-Pritchard this week. The crisis is spreading to northern Europe too, “where bailout fatigue is turning into something deeper,” he wrote. “The Dutch Freedom Party is already demanding a referendum in The Netherlands, and premier Mark Rutte has to deal with a euroskeptic electorate that is not so vastly different from UK voters these days.”
This crisis will have massive consequences for Britain. Each week, European nations draw closer to making a decisive choice: Abandon the euro and let the dream of European unity die, or surrender more national sovereignty and integrate further. The way events are moving, it’s clear Europe, or at least a significant contingent of states, is choosing the latter. Under Germany’s direction, a tighter, more integrated, more federalist and controlling entity is emerging. Meanwhile, Mr. Cameron has promised to renegotiate the treaty to make Britain more independent.
This country is on course for a messy and painful clash with Germany and the EU!
“The United Kingdom’s push to renegotiate its status in the European Union threatens the European project,” wrote Stratfor analyst Adriano Bosoni this week. “At no other time has a country tried to dissociate itself from the bloc in this way. The decision not only challenges the Franco-German view of the European Union but also makes a compromise extremely difficult and risky between France and Germany and the United Kingdom.” If Mr. Cameron is to renegotiate Britain’s relationship with Brussels and somehow persuade Germany and the EU to relinquish power back to Britain, he’s going need a Red Sea-sized miracle.
Sadly, miracles of this magnitude stopped happening to Britain many years ago.
The reality is, by demanding the renegotiation of the United Kingdom’s relationship with the EU, Mr. Cameron has made Britain as large a threat to the future of the EU as the financial crisis is. Think about it: How can Europe integrate further with one of its largest and most influential member states demanding more independence? What if other EU states demand similar concessions? Or want to hold referendums? Depending on the extent of the changes Mr. Cameron demands—and they’ll have to be serious and significant to mollify Britain’s public—the renegotiation of London’s relationship with Brussels threatens to unravel the entire European project.
By announcing a referendum five years from now, Mr. Cameron hopes he bought himself time and chance. Time to renegotiate a new, more palatable relationship with Europe, and a chance for the “Europe question” to quiet down, at least for a year or two. It appears many of his political counterparts, both allies and opponents, are content and will leave the subject alone for now. Even Fleet Street, for the most part, looks as if it will oblige.
The problem is there are too many circumstances beyond Mr. Cameron’s control. World events, and events in Europe in particular, are chaotic and uncertain, and moving extremely fast and dangerously. The financial crisis is transforming the Continent, historic changes are already afoot. Britain wants independence and distance, Germany and others want further integration, and more power and influence given to a centralized European government. It’s a recipe for tension and conflict. Try as he may, there’s no way Mr. Cameron can get around this reality.
As the Trumpet has explained for years, using Bible prophecy as our guide, Britain will leave or be cast out of the EU, and more than likely, much sooner than 2017. ▪