An EU referendum will be a nightmare for Britain. But it has to happen

There is palpable confidence in the Tory party that David Cameron will still be prime minister after the general election. It flows not from any surge in public enthusiasm for the idea of Conservative government, but from a lack of evidence that voters are ready to trust Ed Miliband with power.

But as a second term in government comes into focus for the Tories, it also brings another spectre from the past: the civil war over Europe, deferral of which has been a defining feature of Cameron’s leadership. The promise to hold a referendum on Britain’s membership of the EU has been a modest success. It has not suffocated Ukip, nor even stopped Tory MPs defecting to Nigel Farage’s side. But it has comforted others with the illusion of agreeing on something about which they disagree. The vote may one day rip the Conservative party in half, but on the question of whether that day should come they are strangely united. Continue reading