Two observations are common currency at Christmas parties around Westminster. One, that we are heading for a Brexit. The other, that this is not in the UK’s interest—nor is it the intention of either the Prime Minister or the Chancellor. How did we get here? And can it be recovered?
How we got here starts and finishes with David Cameron. His decision to hold a referendum was not in the national interest—it was done purely for reasons of internal party management. All parties are coalitions that become unstable when internal factions refuse to compromise in the interest of the whole. In the Conservative Party, the divisive issue is the one that has historically caused them most difficulties: free trade. It split them in the 19th century over the Corn Laws and it is now doing so over the European Union.