The debt crisis in Europe is forcing the British to once again choose: the continent or the open sea?
The fiercely independent British have gone both ways over the centuries, openly spurning, even warring against, the continentals while expanding their reach across the oceans. In recent history, though, they’ve been more “in” than “out” – as members of the European Union for nearly 40 years, even if they still use the pound instead of the euro currency.
It is the preservation of the euro that is now prompting “the British question” about relations with the rest of Europe. With the Euro-skeptics reigning over the public discourse in Britain and three crucial meetings of EU heads of state coming before Christmas – each summit deciding on steps toward further European integration – British Prime Minister David Cameron is now publicly hinting at a referendum on EU membership. Changes to the EU’s structure require “fresh consent” from the British people, the prime minister recently said, though he prefers a referendum on Britain's role in the EU, rather than an in-out vote.
It seems appropriate to think through the unthinkable: What if Britain actually left the EU?