Nigel Farage knows this as well as anyone. And this explains his announcement over the weekend — predictably lapped up by the eurosceptic press this morning — that hypothetical UKIP MPs would submit to another five years of Tory government if Cameron agreed to hold an immediate in-out referendum on the EU after next year’s election.
The possibility of British withdrawal, even on Cameron’s invented timetable, is bad enough. But Farage knows that, if there was a proper national debate with the risks of Brexit exposed and the benefits of membership discussed, the odds would not be in his favour. Eurosceptics are rightly terrified of the businesses, unions, entrepreneurs and third sector organisations which have already begun to line up in opposition to a disastrous withdrawal from Europe. And UKIP is beginning to realise that, faced with a real decision, people will want to learn the truth about the EU before deciding which way to cast their vote.
Farage is desperate to avoid that kind of debate, simply because UKIP’s entire game-plan depends on widespread ignorance and misinformation about the EU. So, no debate, thank you very much; a snap referendum straight after the election, please, and to hell with the consequences — even though this is now supposed to include five more years of a disastrously unpopular Tory government.