'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

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.

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Business Analyst - 12 Month FTC - Entry Level

£23000 - £27000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Business Analyst is required ...

Recruitment Genius: Chefs - All Levels

£16000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: To succeed, you will need to ha...

Recruitment Genius: Maintenance Engineer

£8 per hour: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join an award winni...

Recruitment Genius: Telesales Executive & Customer Service - Call Centre Jobs!

£7 - £9 per hour: Recruitment Genius: Are you outgoing? Do you want to work in...

Day In a Page

Isis in Syria: Influential tribal leaders hold secret talks with Western powers and Gulf states over possibility of mobilising against militants

Tribal gathering

Influential clans in Syria have held secret talks with Western powers and Gulf states over the possibility of mobilising against Isis. But they are determined not to be pitted against each other
Gaza, a year on from Operation Protective Edge: A growing population and a compromised and depleted aquifer leaves water in scarce supply for Palestinians

Gaza, a year on from Operation Protective Edge

A growing population and a compromised and depleted aquifer leaves water in scarce supply for Palestinians
Dozens of politicians, bureaucrats and businessmen linked to Indian bribery scandal die mysteriously

Illnesses, car crashes and suicides

Dozens of politicians, bureaucrats and businessmen linked to Indian bribery scandal die mysteriously
Srebrenica 20 years after the genocide: Why the survivors need closure

Bosnia's genocide, 20 years on

No-one is admitting where the bodies are buried - literally and metaphorically
How Comic-Con can make or break a movie: From Batman vs Superman to Star Wars: Episode VII

Power of the geek Gods

Each year at Comic-Con in San Diego, Hollywood bosses nervously present blockbusters to the hallowed crowd. It can make or break a movie
What do strawberries and cream have to do with tennis?

Perfect match

What do strawberries and cream have to do with tennis?
10 best trays

Get carried away with 10 best trays

Serve with ceremony on a tray chic carrier
Wimbledon 2015: Team Murray firing on all cylinders for SW19 title assault

Team Murray firing on all cylinders for title assault

Coaches Amélie Mauresmo and Jonas Bjorkman aiming to make Scot Wimbledon champion again
Wimbledon 2015: Nick Bollettieri - Vasek Pospisil must ignore tiredness and tell himself: I'm in the quarter-final, baby!

Nick Bollettieri's Wimbledon Files

Vasek Pospisil must ignore tiredness and tell himself: I'm in the quarter-final, baby!
Ashes 2015: Angus Fraser's top 10 moments from previous series'

Angus Fraser's top 10 Ashes moments

He played in five series against Australia and covered more as a newspaper correspondent. From Waugh to Warne and Hick to Headley, here are his highlights
Greece debt crisis: EU 'family' needs to forgive rather than punish an impoverished state

EU 'family' needs to forgive rather than punish an impoverished state

An outbreak of malaria in Greece four years ago helps us understand the crisis, says Robert Fisk
Gaza, a year on from Operation Protective Edge: The traumatised kibbutz on Israel's front line, still recovering from last summer's war with Hamas

Gaza, a year on from Operation Protective Edge

The traumatised kibbutz on Israel's front line, still recovering from last summer's war with Hamas
How to survive electrical storms: What are the chances of being hit by lightning?

Heavy weather

What are the chances of being hit by lightning?
World Bodypainting Festival 2015: Bizarre and brilliant photos celebrate 'the body as art'

World Bodypainting Festival 2015

Bizarre and brilliant photos celebrate 'the body as art'
alt-j: A private jet, a Mercury Prize and Latitude headliners

Don't call us nerds

Craig Mclean meets alt-j - the math-folk act who are flying high