The Liberal Democrats last night criticised David Cameron’s comments on a referendum on the European Union, saying that the Prime Minister, pictured below, was speaking as Conservative Party leader, not for the coalition as a whole.
Many eurosceptic Conservative MPs believe that Britain should renegotiate the terms of its EU membership and take back significant powers.
However, distancing themselves from Mr Cameron’s announcement that he is prepared to consider a referendum on the UK’s EU relationship, but only when the time is right, a Lib Dem spokesman suggested that he was responding to “internal divisions” in his party.
“The Liberal Democrats do not believe that there is much public appetite at the moment for an abstract discussion about a referendum on an undefined question at an unspecified time in a future parliament,” the spokesman said.
“Liberal Democrats think the public want something more concrete than that,” he went on.
“That is why we supported legislation which provides a cast-iron guarantee that a referendum will be held should there be any proposal to transfer sovereignty from the UK to the EU at any time in the future, whether in this parliament or the next parliament.”
The spokesman added: “We believe that is the sensible way to approach the issue of referenda, but we understand the internal divisions in the Conservative Party that will give rise to this sort of debate.”