What's fixin' to be the second most important election of the year will happen on June 23th. That's the date the British will vote on staying in the EU. All the main opposition parties are in favor of staying and Conservative PM David Cameron is looking to keep the UK in after getting some modest reforms OKed from EU leaders.
However, a number of Conservative are looking to leave the EU. A free trade zone is good economics, but an unresponsive central government with increasingly chafing laws rubs a lot of folks the wrong way. I'm not an expert on EU legislative dynamics, but it seems to be largely elite-driven, where factional leaders make deals with little room for pressure from voters. In an era where responsive government is more valued, the EU seems to be too big for popular pressure to make a dent.
Add to those structural issues the added pressure of folks from poorer parts of Europe flocking to Britain (movement by EU citizens within the EU isn't restricted) and boatloads of Arab and other refugees flocking into Europe (although those folks don't have automatic entree into the UK) and you get financial, political and culture clashes that makes the EU problematic for a lot of those Tory voters. Britain has stayed out of the Euro, so at least monetary policy has some wiggle room.
Some Conservative MPs have announced their intention to back the prime minister. The Labour Party, SNP, Plaid Cymru [Scottish and Welch nationalists respectively] and the Lib Dems are also in favour of staying in.
But many Conservatives have announced they will back the leave campaign including Mr Cameron's long-time ally, Justice Secretary Michael Gove.
London Mayor Boris Johnson, who has previously been a Eurosceptic, has yet to declare where he stands.
If everyone but a handful of Conservatives are for it, why would the vote be in doubt?
One party not mentioned in the piece was the UK Independence Party, which got 26.6% of the vote in the last EU parliament election in 2014. They go past Eurosceptic and hit Eurohostile and have a nativist streak that makes them persona-non-grata with elites; sort of what the Tea Party would look like if they were a free-standing party. That's a proportional-representation election, so you don't have to worry about if you can get a plurality of the vote in your district.
In last year's British parliamentary elections, where they have American-style plurality-take-all district-by-district races, the UKIP got 13% but only 1 MP, as roughly half of that EU vote went to other parties that had a better chance of winning that district.
If we use the 2014 vote as a framework and give half of the Tories 23.1% to nearly all of the UKIP vote, we get 38% or so from the 49.7% from those two. If they can get 12% from the remaining 50.3% and/or get better than half of the Tory vote, a majority Leave vote is very feasible. Given that about 3% of the vote went to fringe Euroskeptic parties and some of the Northern Irish parties might have a Leave contingent, it wouldn't take much to get to 50%, especially when we've seen the Greek debacle and the current Syrian diaspora make the EU less of a bargain than 21 months ago.
That final sentence of the BBC except is interesting. Johnson is a shoot-from-the-lip conservative that is seen as a rival to Cameron, who is from the moderate side of the party; the top-of-the-head analogy would cast Johnson as Newt Gingrich and Cameron as Lindsey Graham, a feisty righty versus a gentleman of the establishment middle.
If Johnson can get the Tory Leave vote up to two-thirds, it might tip the balance, and leave a pro-Stay Cameron out on a limb, leaving him to implement a velvet divorce from the EU that he opposed. Given that British parties are free to change prime ministers between elections, the Tories might want to have a pro-Leave guy in charge, and the leader in the clubhouse for that role would be Boris the Spider.
So, we might well have something other than a brokered convention to keep tabs of early this summer. Very interesting times