Fourth, Britain has changed in unpredictable ways. The recent census [pdf] revealed a country where 7.5 million people are foreign-born, an increase of 2.6 million since 2001. The country is more diverse, less white, less Christian, less religious overall, less hidebound, more open. In theory these changes should favor Europe, but I am not sure: The Jessica Ennis generation, named for the popular gold-medal winning athlete of mixed Jamaican and English descent, does not look to Brussels with the reverence that will be on display at the Franco-German celebration on Jan. 22 of the 50th anniversary of the treaty cementing their postwar reconciliation. Europe’s agony and rebirth as a Continent whole and free are not its concern.

For these reasons, continued British E.U. membership should not be taken for granted, even if Britain would be mad to leave Europe. Little-Britainism does not suit a globalized world. Business would suffer, influence diminish, and the special relationship (such as it is) with the United States would not fill the gap. Nor would the new ties to emergent economies that euro-skeptic Tories are keen to talk up…

Cameron should go ahead with his referendum plans. The democratic deficit of the European Union is real. It is a core problem. Precisely because the British debate is serious and deep-rooted this time, it has to be played out. A vote is needed. And I believe that, as in 1975, British good sense would prevail.