David Cameron 'prepared to consider EU referendum'

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

Related Stories

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."


More on This Story

Related Stories

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external Internet sites


This entry is now closed for comments

Jump to comments pagination
  • rate this

    Comment number 400.

    Who is to be the stalking horse? Is Osborne keeping his head down so that he might be Dave's replacement. There's a muttering in the ranks and Dave's heard it. ITS POLITICS- nothing to do with HYS posters. He's trying to keep the right wing on his side.

  • rate this

    Comment number 399.

    It funny how people like to blame Cameron or thatcher for everything,

    Are they going to blame them for the 13 years of over spend which caused a debt build up, are you going to blame dave for 3 million eastern Europeans moving causing a housing shortage?

  • rate this

    Comment number 398.

    This amounts to no more than the promise of some raw meat for the feral mob. As the comments posted here show, one and all understand it to be an attempt to pull the wool over the electorate's eyes. Cameron should be facing up to and dealing with the far more pressing and grave crises that beset his government and in which it itself is implicated.

  • rate this

    Comment number 397.

    Re 361 davenorthants

    I think Dave has missed the point. I also voted 40 years ago - to join the EEC, i.e. the European Economic Community. I've never had the chance to vote on joining the European Union. Successive Labour and Tory governments have promised a referendum, but never delivered. I believe we should have a vote and decide the issue one way or another - for good this time!

  • rate this

    Comment number 396.

    31. Toxic Tel

    This is not just a David Cameron issue that is just too convenient.

    The whole nature of the banking system we currently have can be traced back to the deregulation of the City in the 80s & 90s & Labour did nothing, absolutely nothing to change the status quo in their 3 terms of office

  • rate this

    Comment number 395.

    Yes Cameron`s so for an EU referendum that when it was last voted on he bought in a three-line whip to vote it down. The man`s just a political opportunist and has no interest in the opinions of the public or not at least until election time.

  • rate this

    Comment number 394.

    I work in Finance in the City and do not consider myself ignorant (188 Dont trust the Government). We signed up for a free trade area not "The United States of Europe". We do not need the EU as only 4% of our trade with them can be (but is currently not) subjected to tarrifs if we were outside the area. All they want the UK for is to pay the bills!

  • rate this

    Comment number 393.

    By driving the Euro project, Kohl and Mitterand knew full well that events would force on EU States in the Euro zone yet more integration leading to a Federation. This is now happening and a Federation of Euro States is now being formed that will lead to political union. The UK must now decide on its future relationship with the new Europe now evolving and ultimately the electorate must have a say

  • rate this

    Comment number 392.

    This is just a smokescreen to divert attention from public anger over banking.

    Totally cynical
    Totally manipulative

  • rate this

    Comment number 391.

    @308.Peter Young
    The EU has, or is negotiating special trade agreements with most countries/trade areas & these are under no obligation to have trade agreements with the UK outside the EU & any trade agreement they offered would likely be inferior to the EU one. Almost all countries are part of trading areas nowdays who trade with other trade areas like the EU under preferential terms.

  • rate this

    Comment number 390.

    Promise the people a referendum on Europe, while your mates are busy pillaging the economy. Sounds very familiar!

    We didn't get the promised referendum last time, and I doubt we will this time, either.

    Blair, Cameron? Not much to choose between them, except who benefits from the pillaging...

    Oh - hang on......

  • rate this

    Comment number 389.

    If you want to be in the EU then move there!
    The EU is only an hour away on a ferry to France or Ireland

    Good luck, and enjoy yourself, lol

    The rest of us will stay on this side on the English channel and watch Europe do what Europe has been best at over the last 100 years

    Tearing itself to pieces

    The ONLY TIME Europe wasn't in turmoil was when we kept our foot firmly on the throat of Germany

  • rate this

    Comment number 388.

    Some people have said the general public don't understand the intricacy of the EU and therefore we shouldn't have a vote on it.

    Using this arguement should we therefore stop having general elections.

    It is the right of the people to decide their future not a privileged few.

  • rate this

    Comment number 387.

    Fact: EuroZone can never be stable without full political union.
    Fact: Full Political Union = loss of National Sovereignty.
    So, either the EuroZone MUST collapse, or democracy MUST be sacrificed – which do YOU prefer?
    An honest approach inevitably leads to the former – and the opportunity to reassess the original concept of a Common Market, NOT a Political Empire!

  • rate this

    Comment number 386.

    362. frogspawner
    What angers me most about the EU is how the BBC constantly churns out pro-EU propaganda.
    How is opening a forum to a predictable Europhobe mini-tsunami anti-EU? And btw how is the EU responsible for the BBC? They have very well organised news agencies, they really don't need the BBC, thank god. There is a tree out there you should be barking up, it's not this one.

  • rate this

    Comment number 385.

    DC should stop playing to his party and get on with sorting out this country's problems. And to anyone who says the EU is part of the problem, DC is not promising a referendum he is only "prepared to consider it", so its a total non story.

  • rate this

    Comment number 384.

    dear Dave Cleggy and Baronet Osbourn we are not going to just forget the banking swindlers and criminals just because its inconvenient for you and your relying on getting jobs after politics with the corrupt bankers you cannot ignore criminality when it suits you and your party and personal bank balances how ever much you try we wont forget

  • rate this

    Comment number 383.

    As I've alreay said just another ploy from Mr Scameron to divert us away from the LIBOR rate fixing scandal

  • rate this

    Comment number 382.

    David Cameron is prepared to consider a referendum on the UK's EU relationship, but only when the time is right, and that time will be when he and his party are history. He would give it the kiss of deat as he has done since assuming the position of PM. to the economy of our country.

  • rate this

    Comment number 381.

    Camoron and his party's intentions confirm that he would be implicated in any Banking enquiry.


Page 14 of 33


More Politics stories



BBC © 2014 The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.