Prime Minister David Cameron sits at an interesting, yet unenviable crossroads. As the leader of the United Kingdom, he is trying to lead his horse to the waters of the European Union across the channel, but that very horse is unable to decide if it wants to drink. He has promised to solve the “immigration problem” from Eastern Europe, yet is averse to actually leaving the EU. Having stated he does not plan to run for re-election, Cameron promises the British people a referendum on whether or not to stay within the EU. So what will it be?
The issue at hand that keeps coming back to stir the pot and cause discontent is the issue of Eastern European immigrants. With the rise to prominence of the UK Independence Party and its staunchly anti-EU leader Nigel Farage, there is also a fighter in the corner of what is being now called a “Brexit.” While Mr. Farage’s anti-immigration serves to antagonize a section of Brits against the idea of staying in the EU, it is also worth noting that China and India contribute nearly thrice as many immigrant workers to the system. But Britain’s worry about immigrants stealing their jobs (sound familiar, Trump?) is not the underlying reason for this desire for separation.
Initially not interested in joining the European Economic Council, Britain’s applications were then rejected twice by the French. At that point France viewed Britain as being too close to the US and not invested enough in the idea of a united Europe. Eventually Britain would join, but it tried pushing its weight around to get special concessions. The EU was not, as Britain wished it would become, a free trade area, but instead became a customs union. This restricted Britain from developing its own international trade ties and relationships. In the minds of the aggrieved, this makes the mighty UK equal to Luxembourg; its storied history and strength is seen as irrelevant to the present day.
Ultimately, it will be this pride that might rein the British back and force them to sulkily accept their seat within the EU. The Scottish referendum of a couple of years ago showed that it still valued the presence of its member states (or colonies if you are a skeptic). The Scottish are more favorable to staying in the EU, given a more European spirit, and so there might be reason for the British to vote to stay in the EU, if only to maintain its integrity. Or hold on to the remnants of a vast, but today non-existent empire; either way, this fight won’t be won in any boxing ring, but within the minds of those watching.