I really don’t understand what Cameron is trying to achieve by trying to renegotiate the EU membership terms and then holding a referendum with only two options: the new terms or leaving the EU altogether (without any option to opt for full EU membership instead).
I could understand if he was threatening his EU colleagues that he’d hold a referendum if they didn’t allow a renegotiation, but what is the incentive for other EU leaders to waste time and money renegotiating the membership terms when it’s quite likely the UK will go for a Norwegian solution anyway?
If I was Merkel or Hollande, I’d say no to renegotiation (or at the most give Cameron the tiniest opt-out possible), and tell the UK put up or pull out. Giving in to Cameron would just create a precedent for other countries that you can get your way by threatening to leave, and they’d probably benefit from companies relocating to the continent to stay within the EU.
Furthermore, there is a decent chance that the UK after a decade in the Norwegian Limbo would ask to become a member again, at which time the EU could decide to allow the UK back in only if they signed up to the full package without any opt-outs.
Apart from this, does Cameron really think the British economy really needs five years of uncertainty, during which time very few companies will create EU jobs in the UK? Obviously, it’s an important decision that would need to be discussed in detail, but this is pushing it.
From a Scottish point of view, I hope Cameron’s referendum will convince many undecided voters that it’s actually less risky to vote Yes to independence in 2014 than to vote No, simply because an independent Scotland will be more likely to be an EU member in 2020 than the UK.
It also brilliantly exposes the hypocrisy of many of the Better Together campaigners, who have been accusing the Scottish Government of doing exactly what they’re doing themselves now.