British Prime Minister David Cameron has given his long-awaited speech on the U.K.’s relationship with the European Union. In the speech Cameron addressed the frustrations many British people have with the E.U., namely its undemocratic nature, its bureaucracy, and its concentration of power. However, despite the level of frustration many in the U.K. have with the E.U. David Cameron did not offer a referendum in this parliament, only promising a referendum on the U.K.’s renegotiated membership of the E.U. if there is a Conservative government after 2015:
The next Conservative manifesto in 2015 will ask for a mandate from the British people for a Conservative government to negotiate a new settlement with our European partners in the next parliament.
It will be a relationship with the single market at its heart.
And when we have negotiated that new settlement, we will give the British people a referendum with a very simple in or out choice. To stay in the EU on these new terms, or come out altogether.
It will be an in-out referendum.
Legislation will be drafted before the next election. And if a Conservative government is elected we will introduce the enabling legislation immediately and pass it by the end of that year. And we will complete this negotiation and hold this referendum within the first half of the next parliament.
What this means is that the British people will get to vote on British membership of the E.U. under renegotiated terms sometime between 2015 and 2017, assuming that the Conservatives win the next general election and David Cameron stands by what he said earlier today.
Unfortunately for Eurosceptics, it is far from obvious that the Conservative Party will be able to form a government after the next general election.
The Heritage Foundation's Nile Gardiner thinks that Cameron offering a referendum is a testament to the influence of the United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP), or as he calls it, “The British Tea Party.” No doubt UKIP’s growing support was a factor in making Cameron finally speak out on the European issue.
However, UKIP are unlikely to be appeased. As their leader Nigel Farage said earlier today, five years is a long time to wait, and the renegotiation of the U.K.’s membership of the E.U. should be happening now: