'Britain would not collapse outside EU': David Cameron holds out prospect of referendum
Prime Minister rejects criticism from German politicians that he was trying to 'blackmai' the rest of the EU
Andrew Grice has been Political Editor of The Independent since 1998. He was previously Political Editor of The Sunday Times, where he worked for 10 years, and he has been a Westminster-based journalist since 1982. His column, Inside Politics, appears in The Independent each Saturday.
Monday 14 January 2013
David Cameron today rebuffed demands by Conservative MPs for a referendum on Europe before the 2015 general election, telling them they would have to wait until the next parliament.
The Prime Minister sought to end the confusion over his stance on Europe ahead of a much-anticipated speech he is due to make on the issue next week. In media interviews, he insisted he had nothing to fear from a referendum but made clear it would not take place until he had negotiated a “new settlement” between Britain and the EU. Some Tory MPs, including the former Europe Minister David Davis, have called for an early referendum to endorse the Government’s demands for a new deal, to be followed later by another public vote on the result of its negotiations with its EU partners.
Mr Cameron told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme that an immediate “in or out” vote would be a “false choice”. He added: “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.”
Although Britain would not “collapse” if it left the EU, he insisted that he wanted it to remain a member because it was in the country’s interests to stay in the single market. “I’m also optimistic and confident that we can achieve changes in the European Union to make sure that Britain feels more comfortable with our relationship with Europe – I’m confident we can do that,” he said.
The Prime Minister rejected criticism from German politicians that he was trying to “blackmail” the rest of the EU by threatening to leave if British demands for a return of powers to London were not met. He denied being isolated on that, saying Germany and the Netherlands had made similar proposals.
Mr Cameron said: “I’m not blackmailing anybody. Britain, just like every other European country, has a perfect right to say ‘we are members of this club, we are prominent members, we pay a large bill for being a member of this club; we’re perfectly entitled to argue it needs to change’.
“This is not just about Britain’s relationship with Europe, this is also about the whole way Europe needs to change in order to deal with the global race and the competition from the south and the east and the fact that Europe’s economies are too bureaucratic, too sclerotic. We need to change that, and that’s an argument that I think will have great strength across Europe.”
Labour has warned that Mr Cameron could put the UK on a “slippery slope towards the EU exit door” if the new membership terms were rejected in a referendum. Douglas Alexander, the shadow Foreign Secretary, said the Prime Minister’s interviews raised more questions than they answered. “He's not in control of the agenda or even his party. The gap between his back benchers and our EU partners remains unbridgeable,” he said.
Threat of 'catastrophic cascade of collisions' must be averted, warn scientists
Oxford is the least affordable city in the UK, where houses cost 11 times local salaries
Wellcome Image Awards: The most striking images from the world of science, including breast cancer cells under chemical attack and a photographer’s own kidney stone
Space debris orbiting Earth to be destroyed with giant lasers fired from Australia
Swarm of killer bees sting woman 1,000 times
Oscar Pistorius trial: Athlete repeatedly vomits as court hears 'graphic details' of Reeva Steenkamp's autopsy
Britain's top vet sparks controversy with call for ban on slashing animals' throats in 'ritual' slaughters for halal and kosher meat products
Poor 'live like animals' says Boris's privately educated sister after going on 'poverty safari'
Exclusive: Impact of immigrants on British workers ‘negligible’
Vince Cable: Teachers 'know absolutely nothing' about the world of work
Ukraine crisis: Russia pledges to 'retaliate against sanctions' as Ukrainian president says Crimea vote will not be recognised
The quiet diplomat: Catherine Ashton - recognised and admired in all the world’s troubled countries, yet ridiculed at home
- 1 Australian man Rod Sommerville reacts to bite from deadly snake by reaching for cold beer
- 2 North Korea elections: Kim Jong-un wins 100% of the vote
- 3 David Cameron resorts to paying for Facebook fans because not enough people like him
- 4 Steve Irwin’s final words: Cameraman present at death opens up about deadly stingray attack for the first time
- 5 Sharknado 2: Former WWE wrestler Kurt Angle to fight second wave of flying sharks
£12000 per annum: Inspiring Interns: Our client is a leading digital agency bu...
£40000 - £45000 per annum: Charter Selection: Global leader in its respective ...
£130 - £161 per day: Randstad Education Nottingham: Do you have a qualificatio...
£6720 - £33600 per annum: Randstad Education Nottingham: The school is much la...