Conservative Party Conference
David Cameron hints at Europe referendum
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.
Tuesday 09 October 2012
David Cameron has given his strongest hint yet that he will offer the British public referendum on the UK’s relationship with the European Union.
The Prime Minister gave ground to Tory Eurosceptics, who reacted angrily to his previous suggestion that Britain’s position could be decided either at a general election or in a referendum. The sceptics rejected the election option, saying other issues would muddy the waters.
Today Mr Cameron said a separate referendum would be the "cleanest, neatest and simplest way" to give people a say on Europe. Aides said it would almost certainly be held after the 2015 election, when the shape of the fiscal union being forged by eurozone countries would be much clearer.
During a round of media interviews, Mr Cameron said: “Europe is changing, the eurozone is going to integrate, they are going to do more things together, and I think that's right for them. It's necessary if they are going to save the single currency, but I think that does open up the opportunity for Britain to get a fresh and a better settlement with Europe and I am committed to making sure we do everything to set that out in the run-up to the next election; to get that fresh settlement then seek fresh consent for that settlement.”
However, he suggested that he would deny hardline sceptics the referendum they demand on whether Britain should remain a member of the EU. He said: “I'm neither in favour of out – leaving altogether – nor am I satisfied with the status quo. I want to change the status quo.”
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