David Cameron's recent speech professing to enable the British people to take part in a referendum by 2018 on the European Union feels like rather too little considerably too late. Having been a persistent critic of the EU during his time in Opposition, while opposing the more explicitly pro-European Labour party, Cameron perpetually professed that a Conservative government would offer the British people exactly such a referendum on a matter which is, after all, critical to the future of the country, its democratic status, and even its very sovereignty.
To pledge to finally deliver the opportunity for the public to have a plebiscite on the EU superstate an entire decade after originally promising to do so, and after a babbling stream of similarly broken promises on a variety of other issues, might lead one to wonder what possible reason there would be for those that voted for Cameron to expect him to deliver on this in some imagined future five years down the line.
Cameron is quite right to say that countries should retain "their ability to make their own choices, and to try and shoehorn countries into a centralised political union would be a great mistake for Europe, and Britain wouldn't be part of it". But one might wonder why this only becomes relevant five years in the future, after three years already of Cameron's government ducking, swerving and otherwise dodging the issue, having promised to do the exact opposite.
If the reason for this delay, as has been suggested by Mr. Cameron, is some sort of perceived economic 'crisis' within the Eurozone, the storm clouds of which must disperse before such a referendum can take place, then the vote will have to be postponed for more than five years. To say that the European Union has not been an economic success would be an understatement akin to saying that Dr. Hannibal Lecter had an unconventional notion of personal space.
Every single country that has acceded to the Eurozone, with the exception of Germany, is currently in an abysmal economic position. Greece has already gone cap in hand to the IMF, and just a week ago it was reported that they need yet more financial support. Just yesterday, it was reported that Spanish unemployment had reached the unheralded levels of over 26 percent, while youth unemployment in the country is, incredibly, on the verge of 60 percent. Other countries such as Italy, Portugal and Ireland have all had IMF austerity measures imposed on them.
In addition, no-one involved in the Eurozone has any remotely practical solutions to the problem. No-one has any feasible plan, even a bad plan, to reduce the levels of debt and budget deficit that have become completely routine in Europe. Just keep stumping up the EU budget money, close your eyes and pray that everything turns out for the best.
Of course, all of the countries that are fully integrated within the Eurozone have completed surrendered their sovereignty, and thus don't even have the basic democratic right to opt out of any of the ludicrous plans proposed by the EU Commission. For example, Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso's scheme to "subject [Eurozone members to] deeper coordination, endorsement and surveillance at the European level". One might quite reasonably ask, how is that going to help anyone other than the unelected, unaccountable bureaucrats that run the Commission?
The EU is a total disaster for any nation's sovereignty, which ought to be reason enough for Britain's future to lie outside it. After all, sovereign self-determinism is precisely what defines a country. But given the fact that the European Economic Community could more accurately be named the European Economic Disaster Zone, this brings the matter into sharper focus. Particularly as Britain's economic future is extremely perilous. Despite, the empty boasts of the coalition government, the UK has sunk back into negative growth in the last few days. The last thing the nation needs is to be more intimately attached to a political experiment that has been a monumental failure.
The question ought not to be, "should there be a referendum in five years?" A more relevant question would be "will the EU even last that long anyway?"