ConservativeHome supports Home Rule for all four home nations – as outlined in the ConservativeHome Manifesto. By contrast, it does not back an early EU referendum, for the reasons that Mark Wallace set out recently on this site.
Support for Britain’s membership has risen alongside the increases in UKIP’s poll support. In short, the party’s backwards-looking ethos is driving voters into the pro-EU camp. A quick referendum campaign forced by Nigel Farage’s party is therefore likely to end with a Yes vote.
This site therefore favours a longer campaign, in which the issues would be thoroughly aired, with a vote in 2017 as David Cameron proposes – unsurprisingly, since we favour a No vote.
However, Cameron will not be the master of his fate in the event of a hung Parliament, even if the Conservatives are the largest single party. Farage has recently repeated UKIP’s commitment to back the Tory leader if, in the event of a hung Parliament, the latter delivers an early EU referendum.
If in this circumstance Farage and his party really demand one, as a condition of such support, the least bad course for Cameron is to concede it. To agree in such a circumstance for a referendum in principle, while also holding out for a postponement of a year, would baffle voters (and put Ed Miliband into power).
Furthermore, Labour and the Liberal Democrats might well agree to an early poll, since it would be likely to give them the result they want.
As I say, a 2017 EU referendum is preferable to an earlier one. But in a hung Parliament, beggars can’t be choosers. So if Farage and his Party really insist on one, and are willing to risk cementing Britain’s place in the EU on present conditions, then so be it.
Perhaps this explains why a very senior politician hasn’t ruled such an early referendum out. I refer, of course, to Cameron himself. At any rate, the Euro-sceptic movement as whole has pressed for an EU referendum. It may shortly have to face up to the consequence of its campaign.
Final post in this three-part series will come later today.