Commenting on his EU referendum pledge in 2013 and the referendum on Scottish independence, British prime minister David Cameron claimed in 2014 that he would win the latter easily and put to bed the Scottish question for 20 years, and that the same would go for Europe. From the start, the referendum on Britain’s membership of the European Union was a political gamble to appease the euro sceptic Tory right and to curb the rise of the right wing populist UKIP, which reached a peak in the months prior to the 2015 UK General Election. The victory of the No campaign on Scottish independence and Cameron’s success at the General Election seemed to prove his strategy right.
The deal that Cameron finally reached with the EU on staying in offered greater guarantees of the City’s status as the euro-zone’s offshore financial centre, allowed EU migrants initially to be denied welfare benefits and put a special focus on liberalisation and ‘strengthening competitiveness’. So for Britain to remain a member of the EU would have meant even less ‘social Europe’ – a deal that content wise could hardly be supported even by the mildest social democrat. From a leftist perspective, this EU-deal versus Brexit as propagated by the Tory right and UKIP offered only a cynical choice between a rock and a hard place. [Read more…]