DAVID Cameron has suggested that British voters will eventually get a referendum to back a “fresh settlement” within the EU.
• EU referendum expected to include option to withdraw or resettlement
In an interview this morning on Radio 4’s Today programme, the Prime Minister declared that changes to the structure of the EU would present an opportunity for Britain to renew its relationship with the continent.
He said that an in-out referendum today would be a “false choice”, reinforcing the view that a referendum on EU membership prior to the next general election in 2015 is now highly unlikely.
He said he was “in favour” of EU membership but that he wanted to change that relationship so that powers could be returned from Brussels to the UK if necessary.
It comes a week before he gives a major speech setting out his EU strategy. His comments this morning will prompt fresh speculation that Mr Cameron will use that speech to propose a referendum in which voters would be offered the choice of quitting the EU or the new settlement he hopes to negotiate.
That tactic has been attacked however by critics who fear that if Britain does not get the ‘new settlement’ it wants, a so-called ‘Brexit’ becomes all the more likely.
Mr Cameron told Radio 4’s Today programme: “I am in favour of Britain’s membership of the European Union. We’re a trading nation, we need access to the single market, but more than that we need a say in the rules of that market. So I believe Britain does have a European future.”
He added: “But frankly, there is a debate going on in Britain about our relationship with Europe – a lot of people are not happy, including me, with some of the nature of that relationship, and I think there’s an opportunity to get that relationship right.”
He hit back at claims that Britain would be better advised to sit and wait out the reforms within the Eurozone. It comes amid warnings from Germany that any attempt by Britain to renegotiate its terms of membership is a dangerous tactic.
But Mr Cameron said: “Europe is changing and the opportunity for us to lead those changes and make changes and make changes that will make our relationship with Europe more comfortable are absolutely there so I’m confident we can do that.”
He said, however, that, any vote is not going to come any time soon, saying it would not be right to have a vote on whether to stay in the EU at a time when people would prefer to have the relationship negotiated, rather than ended.
He said: “You’ll have to wait for the speech for the full details, but obviously I want to give people a proper choice. What I don’t favour – and this is important – I think if we had an In/Out referendum tomorrow or very shortly, I don’t think that would be the right answer for the simple reason that I think we’d be giving people a false choice. Because right now, I think there are a lot of people who say, ‘Well, I would like to be in Europe, but I’m not happy with every aspect of the relationship, so I want it changed’ – that is my view. So I think an In/Out referendum today is a false choice.”