Vince Cable is surely right in his comments yesterday that the most likely scenario for Britain leaving the EU is if Ed Miliband is Prime Minister after the next election.
The theory, that you hear a lot in Westminster, goes like this: Miliband is forced by public opinion into promising a referendum on EU membership, he then becomes Prime Minister and is obliged to hold the vote. But by this time, the Tory opposition is advocating a No vote; arguing that a better deal can be negotiated. The country then votes No and the rest of the EU, for once, accepts the result of the first vote.
Many senior pro-European Labour figures feel that this scenario is all too plausible. One of the reasons some of them favour Labour backing an In/Out referendum now, is that they believe that Cameron—as Prime Minister—would have to lead the campaign to stay in.
But it is precisely because In could lose a referendum under a Labour government, that Miliband will be very reluctant to promise one. Those around him know that an EU vote would dominate, and could break, his premiership. So, they’ll only commit to one if they absolutely have to.