If Britain sides against Cameron on Europe, his authority will be shatteredby Malcolm Rifkind / January 11, 2016 / Leave a comment
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When, sometime this year, the people of Britain cast their votes in the European referendum, they not only could change the whole course of British history. They could also bring David Cameron’s residence in 10 Downing Street to a sudden and dramatic end.
The fate of one man, however eminent, is of little significance compared to the fate of nations. He has been a successful Prime Minister and remains, after five years, well respected. He would, I suspect, be the first to say that that should not be particularly relevant in deciding whether you, or I, vote for the United Kingdom to remain in the European Union or propel our country into the outer light (or darkness, depending on your point of view).
Why Cameron’s fate is linked to the outcome of the referendum is hardly difficult to explain. He has said, publicly and unequivocally, that if he is successful in the current negotiation with his European colleagues he will recommend to the British public that we should remain in the EU and that he will fight “heart and soul” to achieve that end.
If he ends up doing so, and we then reject his advice, his authority will be shattered. He has already said that it is his intention to retire as Prime Minister by the end of this Parliament in 2020. Politics is a brutal business. He would be seen both by his fellow citizens, and internationally, as a “lame duck” Prime Minister. Once such a reputation is achieved it is very difficult to lose.
I am assuming that the Prime Minister will be recommending our continued membership of the EU after these negotiations are concluded. We cannot take that for granted. He has said that if he did not get the reforms he is seeking he would not pretend otherwise and that Brexit would be difficult to…