David Cameron 'prepared to consider EU referendum'

David Cameron Mr Cameron said the government needed 'tactical and strategic patience'

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David Cameron is prepared to consider a referendum on the UK's EU relationship, but only when the time is right, he has written in the Sunday Telegraph.

In the article, the prime minister said he wanted a "real choice" for voters but said an immediate in/out referendum was not what most wanted.

The Lib Dems said the article addressed internal Tory divisions, adding there is little public appetite for debate.

Nearly 100 Conservative MPs have called for a poll during the next Parliament.

In a letter to the prime minister, they urged him to make it a legal commitment to hold a vote on the UK's relationship with the EU.

A Liberal Democrat source said Mr Cameron was "perfectly entitled", as Tory party leader, to set out his views on a possible referendum after the 2015 general election.

But, the source said, there is little public appetite "for an abstract discussion about a referendum on an undefined question at an unspecified time in a future parliament".

William Hague: "We want a better relationship with the European Union"

Labour accused Mr Cameron of engaging in "party management" saying the eurozone crisis was the "big issue".

Foreign Secretary William Hague, speaking on BBC One's Andrew Marr Show, said there was "a very powerful case" for a referendum if other member states agreed a closer union following the eurozone crisis.

But, he said, the time to decide would come when it was clear how Europe would develop and how the UK's relationship with the EU could be made "better".

'More to come'

The prime minister acknowledged the need to ensure the UK's position within the European Union had "the full-hearted support of the British people" but they needed to show "tactical and strategic patience".


Two things are required for a referendum: a question and a date. David Cameron has given us neither.

But he is clear that there should not be a public vote on whether Britain leaves the EU while the dust is still settling on the eurozone crisis.

Downing Street say he is keeping his options open for one in the future, although that is unlikely to happen before the 2015 general election.

Like his recent speech on the future of welfare, David Cameron is speaking as Tory leader to a Tory audience.

The Liberal Democrats are scathing, saying that this is the wrong debate at the wrong time.

The opposition claim that the prime minister is being pushed around by his Eurosceptic backbenchers but it has been rumoured for several months that Labour has been mulling over their own pledge for some form of EU referendum.

However vague, it looks as if David Cameron has beaten them to it.

He disagreed "with those who say we should leave and therefore want the earliest possible in/out referendum".

"An 'in' vote too would have profound disadvantages. All further attempts at changing Britain's relationship with Europe would be met with cries that the British people had already spoken," he added.

He wrote: "There is more to come - further moves, probably further treaties - where we can take forward our interests, safeguard the single market and stay out of a federal Europe.

"Let us start to spell out in more detail the parts of our European engagement we want and those that we want to end. While we need to define with more clarity where we would like to get to, we need to show tactical and strategic patience."

Mr Cameron said, despite the eurozone crisis and his party's coalition with the Lib Dems, he would "continue to work for a different, more flexible and less onerous position for Britain within the EU".

'Real choice'

He continued: "As we get closer to the end point we will need to consider how best to get the full-hearted support of the British people, whether it is in a general election or a referendum.

"As I have said, for me the two words 'Europe' and 'referendum' can go together, particularly if we really are proposing a change in how our country is governed, but let us get the people a real choice first."

BBC political correspondent Adam Fleming said Mr Cameron was keeping his options open but he did not want a referendum "while the dust is still settling on the eurozone crisis".

Labour, rumoured to be considering making its own pledge on a referendum, may now be on the back foot, our correspondent said.

Many Conservative MPs believe Britain should renegotiate the terms of its EU membership.

Tory Eurosceptic Mark Pritchard said a referendum was needed before the next election.

"Once again, when it comes to Europe, it is always 'jam tomorrow'. But tomorrow never comes. The PM should get an Olympic sailing gold for tacking," he said.

The Liberal Democrats said existing legislation, which provides for a referendum when there is a proposal to transfer sovereignty from the UK to the EU, was "the sensible way to approach the issue of referenda".

The party added: "We understand the internal divisions in the Conservative Party that give rise to this sort of debate."

Shadow business secretary Chuka Umunna said: "On the one hand he (Mr Cameron) tells us that he's a practical Eurosceptic and very much gives a signal that he doesn't think we should be having an EU referendum at this time. Now today he's throwing chunks of meat to his disgruntled right-wing in the Tory party.

"What we actually need is a prime minister to take the right decisions for the country."


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  • rate this

    Comment number 200.

    Will those on the right of the spectrum explain their motives for leaving the EU? Why do they want it and how will the nation gain?

  • Comment number 199.

    All this user's posts have been removed.Why?

  • rate this

    Comment number 198.

    195. chrisk50
    What's the difference between UK in or out of the European Union

    About £50 million per day.

    or £18.5 billion per year.

  • rate this

    Comment number 197.

    The political classes would never ever give us a meaningful referendum in which they might not get the result that they want. If they did then they be shown to be redundant as all major policy change could be decided by referenda and not a bunch of self serving lying gasbags. Why can't we have a real democracy in which all of us have a say in what happens on every issue.

  • rate this

    Comment number 196.

    "The Lib Dems said the article addressed internal Tory divisions, adding there is little public appetite for debate."

    Yeah, but the public is all agog about reforming the House of Lords. That, plus hearing Vince Cable say that shareholders should not have an annual say on mangement board's pay shows just out of touch the LibDems are. They're on course to the rubbish dump of political hasbeens.

  • rate this

    Comment number 195.

    What's the difference between UK in or out of the European Union

    About £50 million per day.

    or £18.5 billion per year.

  • rate this

    Comment number 194.

    I honestly don't think a referendum is a good idea. We vote in politicians (in theory) so that they can make the best decisions on behalf of all of us, since they have all the facts and the best experts at their disposal to make informed decisions. Asking the nation to decide is lazy decision making, and a way to pass the blame if it doesn't work out.

  • rate this

    Comment number 193.

    Its just a big diversion by the goverment, to distract the plebs away for the bankers.

  • rate this

    Comment number 192.

    ok we are out question!who do we trade with?

  • rate this

    Comment number 191.

    For all the Doom Sayers if the UK left the European Project, the Business world and trade would NOT collapse into a Black Hole of despair.

    It is Business and Trade that funds the EU, they need OUR trade and Business as much as we need there's.

    In or Out - would change that very little, and if it was out, we have Politicians to negotiate trade deals, make them work for a change!

  • rate this

    Comment number 190.

    British national interest seems secondary to the USA's interests all the time. I look at UKIP and the anti-europeans, see what a bunch of nasty, greedy, bigoted old xxxxxx's they are, who would have kids down mines again if they could, and it makes me want to be in Europe. Pro-Europe, pro-rights.

  • rate this

    Comment number 189.

    Let the people speak. They know what's best for them.


  • rate this

    Comment number 188.

    The vast majority of people in this country don't understand the intricacies of the EU and how it affects our economy. They get their views from the Mail, etc, etc. It saddens me to say that a referendum would result in a vote based on ignorance and rank nationalism, not a way to decide our future.

  • rate this

    Comment number 187.

    If he wants a real choice for voters then he should go to the polls now. This government has no mandate from the electorate, yet is railroading through, with the assistance of the turncoat LibDems, Tory policies based on dogma rather than evidence (HSCB for one), whilst failing to control their friends in the banking industry whose excesses led to the recession.

  • rate this

    Comment number 186.

    How tragic, Mr Cameron, elected to run the country for Her Majesty the Queen, for the benefit of Her Majesty's people, sees himself as some sort of god who can decide whether we get democracy or not, and is only going to let us have it when he thinks he will ge the result he wants.......

  • rate this

    Comment number 185.

    Er...Shouldn't it be the other way around?....Shouldn't we tell you when we want a referendum?

  • rate this

    Comment number 184.

    another scam from the posh boy,to appease his ultra right wing sypathisers eg bash the needy and disabled (undeserving poor),tax cuts for the rich,allow tax evasion for his millionaire mates. his buddy prince charles got an 11% rise in public expenditure but nowt said by either.

  • rate this

    Comment number 183.

    This Referenda the Tory will "consider" will not entirely remove us from the EU.
    So really it's a Tory Manifesto that won't hold!
    I the Voter the People want a Referenda NOW! with no other than a all Out/or All In Yes/No choice, but we all know that will never happen as there will be some thing tied to it that keeps you in no matter if it's a Yes or No

  • rate this

    Comment number 182.

    You don't vote to see if you want to change fire brigades in the middle of a fire.
    Once there is some indication of what sort of relationship there is between the other countries in the EU ,our beloved leader having excluded us from these discussions, then it might be reasonable to put the revised terms to the people.

    Basically this is designed to get the Tory right and UKIP off his back .

  • rate this

    Comment number 181.

    of course its a votes ploy and whoever promises it get if we have to wait until 2015 will get mine


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