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 520.

    508. What economic growth? We're back in a recession. The EU has not helped us 'grow' not has it helped our trading. People always dub anti-EUers as 'Little Englanders' yet it's us who wants to open up to the WORLD rather than a 27-nation trading bloc. Last I checked, the world was BIGGER than the EU, so we're hardly 'Little' Englanders.

  • rate this

    Comment number 519.

    Peter Bridgemont

    You'd have to be a pretty heartless business man to view the provision of decent working conditions as being a nuisance.

    Yes there are EU directives on working conditions, but the bulk of our legislation on workers rights comes from the Employment Rights Act 1996, a piece of legislation passed by the UK parliament.

  • rate this

    Comment number 518.

    498. OutForLunch
    Please clarify who these people are, where you get your figures from and why?
    Many work for my company, they are about 70% of the workforce and their skills, education and motivation makes them invaluable.

  • rate this

    Comment number 517.

    The EU is one big gravy train for failed politicians, neil kinnock, david owen, paddy ashdown to name but a few, if EU vacancies were allowed to be filled by the general public, there would be no politicians interested in europe, the union is a disaster of red tape, the EU is bankrupt it swallowed third world europe in one big bite, now all our economies are in a mess.

  • rate this

    Comment number 516.

    Cameron is preparing the Tory manifesto for the next general election . . . he needs to be careful that he doesn't get caught by Milliband offering it first. We can be out within 2 years of invoking Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty

  • rate this

    Comment number 515.

    People are talking about a non existent referendum?

    Shall we have tea or coffee while the house burns down?

  • rate this

    Comment number 514.

    "1. Breaking the back of the Socialist-dominated unions."
    Attacking working people

    2. Winning the Falkland War.
    Warmongering as a distraction - her only way to win the next election.

    3. Strengthening UK's special relationship with U$A.
    That's a good thing?

    4. Kicking out quite a few of Soviet spies from UK.
    Oh, SHE did that, did she?

  • rate this

    Comment number 513.

    Why doesn't the BoE print a load more £s give us a million each (except the banks and those with millions already) and make us all happy.

    Meerkat simple.

    The mess we are in now is due to the lousy undemocratic system we are controlled by - and that includes DC and the rest at Westminster.

    They must think we are stupid.

  • rate this

    Comment number 512.

    The EU has pushed its own political powers beyond its political legitimacy

    To survive without civil disobedience requires drastic constitutional reform, in short direct elections & accountability

    Without the EU will unravel destroyed by its own greed for unaccountable political power

    I can't see that the UK would want to be part of this, its politicians or its people

  • rate this

    Comment number 511.


    ....It will also save a load of our money currently employing bureaucrats & re-distributed
    Re-distributed???...I did read that correctly didn't I?

    Please tell me you're sitting there dressed for entertaining a kids party..bald head,red nose,huge shoes & a flower that squirts water.I'm amazed Chipperfields haven't offered you a directorship spouting that sort of nonsense.

  • rate this

    Comment number 510.

    Its pointless to hold a referendum when the vast majority of our society has little to no concept of what our actual position is in the EU.

    The average person gets their info from opinion pieces and slanted journalism.

    Do we really want to give such an important vote to people who just spout off rhetoric from the Daily Mail et al?

    I certainly don't, so I'm against a referendum right now.

  • rate this

    Comment number 509.

    There is no intention of a Referendum now or at any future date, this is nothing more than stealing a march on Labour whom it is rumoured were about to announce a referendum on the EU.

    The LB's would never vote for one, they are so far up the EU Backside they clean Merkels Teeth from the back!

  • rate this

    Comment number 508.

    The matter of fact is that Britain in past decade has only been able to achieve economic growth by being in and trading with EU. Many people do not appreciate that in this country. Its funny how UK political elites just love blaming EU and the world in the Financial situation this country is in now... created by thieves in City of London and the good old friends at Wall Street.

  • rate this

    Comment number 507.

    Deflection from the banking scams Dave? De-regulation is Tories middle name. Diamond will probably get an OBE

    I do hope no one's buying it this, and that everyone is now aware of what the Tories stand for.

  • rate this

    Comment number 506.

    In creche, asylum, GCSE?

    Beware the consequences!

    Being swept towards uninformed and rigged vote

    Hitler came to power 'by the vote'

    Before going-along with 'cries for democracy', think:

    What IS 'democracy'?

    HOW might we REALLY have Govt 'of, for, by' The People

    Only Income-EQUALITY can make consciences FREE

    YET, for so many, Equality has been made 'unthinkable'

  • rate this

    Comment number 505.

    what the *** does "prepared to consider EU vote" mean? It's not EU vote, but a consideration. It's not even a consideration but a preparation for consideration. BBC is going the tabloid way.

  • rate this

    Comment number 504.


    Civilisation has never 'worked'. It's just a succession of crisis management with propaganda and denial in abundance.

    Technological advances meant a tiny percentage of humans managed to just about equal the quality of life of a 'primitive' only recently.

    Those who think 'Europe' is one of our biggest problems really need to get out more.

  • rate this

    Comment number 503.

    We just want to be able to decide our own laws - not have them imposed on us by Germany, France etc or, worse, by Eurocrat commissars.

  • rate this

    Comment number 502.

    182 steve and Editors' Pick - You do if the fire brigade are likely to do such a bad job they'll burn your house down!

  • rate this

    Comment number 501.

    There is so many Europeans in the UK. Also there is so many Britons living and working in EU countries !...There is a lots of European companies in England.....


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