As the smoke clears from the battle over nominating Jean-Claude Juncker as president of the European Commission, the gulf between Britain and its EU partners looks wider than ever although all sides talk of focusing more determinedly on public concerns about jobs and prosperity.
Brussels insiders say that for all the talk of radical reform, the 28-nation EU is unlikely to change much either towards deeper integration or to greater decentralisation in the next five years. Asked if the “wind of change” was likely to lead to any discernible shift in the coming years, more than one official quoted Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa’s "The Leopard", a fresco of stratified 19th century Sicilian society. “Everything needs to change so that everything can stay the same,” said a European Commission veteran with 20 years’ experience. “We’ve heard the promises many times before. They are always genuine and probably well intentioned, but things don't change just like that.” The EU has seldom suffered such a deep identity crisis. At the forefront of the doubters is Britain, an awkward member since 1973, with a population mistrustful of Europe and a prime minister determined to renegotiate its relationship with the EU.
In January 2013, Britian PM David Cameron launched his campaign for fundamental change, including erasing EU’s common aim of “ever closer union”. He promised to put the result to an in/out referendum in 2017.