Britain’s future in the European Union will be greatly affected by the results our idiosyncratic electoral system generates for the next Parliament. It is only if Labour is able, alone or in coalition, to construct a government likely to last for five years that the uncertainty around British membership will be dissipated. Labour has said often and forcefully that it would only put the question of British membership of the Union to a referendum if it wished in government to sign a further European Treaty involving significant further sovereignty-pooling by the United Kingdom. No such prospect is imminent or indeed likely in the foreseeable future. If the Parliamentary arithmetic allowed the Labour Party and, say, the Liberal Democrats to achieve together an absolute majority after May, the possibility of the European referendum pledged by the Conservative Party would recede into the distant future. Present predictions do not however suggest that even a coalition between Labour and the Liberal Democrats would suffice for a Parliamentary majority after the next General Election. Any Labour government would probably need to come to an arrangement with the SNP, an arrangement the terms and duration of which are extremely difficult to predict.
I am not quite as sanguine as Mr Donnelly. Labour has a significant number of Eurosceptics in its ranks and it would be surprising if the make-up of the parliamentary party after the election were to be much different. Moreover, the Blair-Brown years were marked by a distancing from the EU.