Baker is also the wrong biker to mess with. An elected member of Parliament, he is part of a growing rank of furious politicians ratcheting up the pressure on British Prime Minister David Cameron to hold a national referendum on a once-unthinkable notion here: leaving the E.U.
“We’re dealing with the tyranny of the nursery, a pathetic nanny state of Europe that now wants to even tell us how we can and cannot modify our motorcycles,” said Baker, one of 100 Conservative lawmakers demanding a referendum — a proposal that is gaining a measure of support even within the opposition Labor Party. “Britain has reached the point where almost no one wants to continue with the way things are, less consider deeper integration with Europe.”
To save the dream of a united Europe in the face of a destructive debt crisis, leaders on the other side of the English Channel are moving to surrender sovereignty over their banks, even talking about an elected regionwide president.
But as the region weighs more radical steps toward integration, popular unease is spreading. Nowhere, however, is the resistance stronger than in Britain, which has withdrawn its name from a host of proposed integration initiatives and whose opposition could throw up hurdles for the rest of Europe as it seeks to forge a common future.
The barrage of British vitriol aimed at Europe is fraying ties, setting up what many are calling a “two-speed Europe,” with a cluster of nations moving closer together even as Britain seems to drift toward countries such as Norway and Switzerland that want no formal part of a united Europe. Indeed, a frustrated Jose Manuel Barroso, president of the European Commission, lashed out this month at the anti-Europe forces in London, saying, “You seem to delight in the difficulties of the euro area.”
To be sure, Britain has long looked askew at the traditions and bureaucracy of the continent just 21 miles from the white cliffs of Dover, seeing Europe mostly as a thing apart. Even as London signed away a host of powers over the past four decades — largely in the name of winning tax-free trade with the region’s largest economies, Germany and France — it jealously guarded the British pound and eschewed the euro currency while never seeming to fully trust its European partners.
Opinion polls show that almost one in every two Britons want to exit the E.U. With public fury growing, Cameron seemed to open the door to a referendum last month. But he has also sought to resist pressure to quickly set a date, something observers say may be increasingly difficult for him to fend off in the coming months.