How David Cameron's stance on Europe revealed the obsession of his base
The writing was on the wall when David Cameron opened his pitch for European Union reform by generously describing the United Kingdom as an "argumentative and rather strong-minded member of the family of European nations." "We have the character of an island nation -- independent, forthright, passionate in defence of our sovereignty," the Prime Minister continued. "We can no more change this British sensibility than we can drain the English Channel."
After essentially calling his country an awkward boor forever separated from the continent, there was only one direction his speech could go. Cameron demanded a full and complete E.U. treaty renegotiation, one which would create a "more flexible, more adaptable, more open" Europe, "fit for the challenges of the modern age." British membership in the E.U. would then be put to the people in a referendum in 2017. If the outcome of these pan-European talks were favorable to the United Kingdom, Cameron would campaign for staying in. If not, he would have no choice but to "think very carefully" but whether to vote in favor of withdrawal.
Cameron's threat to European solidarity and brotherhood could not have been more ill-timed, the speech coming one day after the 50th anniversary of the signing of the historic Élysée Treaty between France and Germany. The rude interruption to celebrations of European unity was a product of the pressure the prime minister has been put under by forces outside of his control: rebellious Euroskeptic backbenchers in his own party on the one hand; and the rise of the downright Europhobic (and, one might add, xenophobic) United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP) on the other, which threatens to pick away at his party's base of support during the upcoming elections.