The British people will vote whether to remain part of the European Union or not by 2018. Cameron’s promise of a referendum suits the Tories electorally. It should defuse the threat from UKIP & damage Labour’s chances of winning the next general election by appearing too pro-European. But behind this short-term electoral positioning lies a split in the capitalist class.
Politics is largely a reflection of the underlying economic power. After WWII Britain was no longer the power it was. The break-up of the empire posed two options for Britain’s political class to savage some of their influence. One was by trying to turn the ex-colonies into an economic sphere of influence under the banner of a Commonwealth. The other option was to join with continental Europe in a project leading to economic & political union. As an island nation the second option was always going to be problematic, hence the promises that this was just a ‘common market’. It then became the EEC (European Economic Community). Then in 1993 the European Union, launching it’s own currency at the turn of the century. Now with the latest economic crisis threatening it’s break-up, political union & eventual fiscal union is forcing deeper integration & taking further powers away from nation states. Most in Britain don’t want this, but until recently the masses have been fed the line that it’s in ‘our’ economic interest. What they have really meant is it has been in the interest of the rich to stay in the EU. Much of Britain’s trade is with the EU. To lose access to the internal EU market will hurt. But industrial capitalists do not have the upper hand. As the financial crisis of 2008 showed, it is the financial capitalists of the City of London who have the most power. When the banks got into trouble the government came running with their cheque-book. We are all now expected to pay for this bailout with austerity. But it is probably the European financial transaction tax that has upset the City & so given Cameron the green light for Britain’s eventual withdrawal.