In Britain, there is “no passion for Europe for Europe's sake,” writes Will Hutton in The Observer. Even the Labour party campaigns on the slogan "Make the EU work for Britain", with the inference that it usually works against it. It might be less surprising that the Conservative party is hostile to Brussels. Now, however, that David Cameron’s party will choose not to sit with the centre-right grouping in the future European Parliament but “with a rag bag of east European MEPs with less than progressive attitudes towards gypsies, homosexuals and Jews,” Britain’s participation in the union might even be trivialised.

Cameron wishes to hold a referendum on the Lisbon treaty. A No would be “a European suicide note” argues Hutton. “26 other countries are not going to spend another three years ratifying another treaty amended to meet David Cameron's and his party's prejudices.”

As a pro-European, however, Hutton wonders whether this wouldn't be better for Europe. Living outside the union as the eurosceptics want – “creating a politically diminished Britain fit for hedge funds, tax-avoiders and asset-strippers – is likely to convince the British majority that the option is a disaster.”

A Europe without Britain, he argues, could well deepen the EU and empower the European Parliament. In 25 years, he predicts, an impoverished, embittered country would seek readmittance. “Reality will have imposed political maturity. And elections for the European Parliament will be much more serious.”