David Cameron's EU referendum is a 'gamble', warns John Major

 

Sir John Major has urged David Cameron to negotiate positively as he seeks a “new settlement” with the EU and played down Eurosceptics’ hopes of powers being returned to Britain.

The former Conservative Prime Minister backed Mr Cameron’s pledge to call an in/out referendum by 2017 but described it as a “gamble”. He hoped it would “heal sores” and have a “cleansing effect” on politics.

Sir John’s seven years in Downing Street to 1997 were scarred by rows with Tory Eurosceptics, even though he won an opt-out from the single currency and social chapter of workers’ rights.

Speaking to the Chatham House think tank, he said: “At present, we are drifting towards and possibly through the European exit. We need a renegotiation and a referendum endorsement of it. If this is denied, the clamour for it will only grow. But it is a gamble for the country and for the Conservative Party.

“The relationship with Europe has poisoned British politics for too long, distracted Parliament and come close to destroying the Conservative Party. It is time to resolve the matter.”

Sir John warned that the negotiations would be difficult, and suggested Mr Cameron should not threaten a British withdrawal to try to “bully” our EU partners. “If we enter with the aggressive attitude of ‘give us our way or we quit’, we will fail,” he said.

He continued: “We should not overestimate what can be achieved.” He said other EU nations were unlikely to allow Britain to withdraw from the social chapter, to which the previous Labour Government signed up, and common agricultural and fisheries policies.

But he believed Mr Cameron could deliver repeal of the working time directive, safeguards for the City of London, less regulation, less bureaucracy, no more social legislation and boosting the single market. Warning that some Tory MPs had become addicted to rebelling, he said hardline Euro-sceptics would never be satisfied no matter what Mr Cameron achieved.

“Members with Conservative heads and Ukip hearts cannot be placated. Whatever is offered to them will be insufficient. They will demand more. They will only be satisfied by withdrawal, so it’s essential for the Prime Minister to rally the persuadable majority of the parliamentary party.  If the negotiations fail, the referendum could be lost and we could slip out of the EU in frustration and by default.”

Restrictions on Romanians will  'breach rights'

Any restrictions imposed on Romanians and Bulgarians travelling to Britain next year will breach European Union laws, David Cameron was warned by the European Commission’s vice-president.

Viviane Reding’s warning came after the Prime Minister instructed ministers to find ways of toughening up rules on foreigners’ entitlement to public services and benefits to deter migrants from heading to this country.

The issue has leapt up the political agenda following claims that a wave of Romanians and Bulgarians could come to Britain after controls on their movement within the EU are lifted at the end of the year.

Nigel Morris

News
Alex Salmond said he accepted 'the democratic verdict of the people'
newsSNP leader says Scotland must move forward as 'one nation'
Arts and Entertainment
Friends is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year
tvSeries celebrates 20th anniversary
Sport
Yaya Touré (left) and Bayern Munich’s Spanish defender Juan Bernat
footballToure's lack of defensive work is big problem for City
Voices
voicesApple continually kill off smaller app developers, and that's no good for anyone
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Arts and Entertainment
Liam Neeson said he wouldn't
tv

Liam Neeson's Downton dreams

Sport
Wembley Stadium
footballNews follows deal with Germany
Arts and Entertainment
A spell in the sun: Emma Stone and Colin Firth star in ‘Magic in the Moonlight’
filmReview: Magic In The Moonlight
Sport
A 'Sir Alex Feguson' tattoo
football

Arts and Entertainment
Ben Whishaw is replacing Colin Firth as the voice of Paddington Bear
tv

Thriller is set in the secret world of British espionage

Life and Style
life

News
ScienceGallery: Otherwise known as 'the best damn photos of space you'll see till 2015'
Life and Style
fashion

Bomber jacket worn by Mary Berry sells out within an hour

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

Nursery Assistant Plymouth

£10000 - £20000 per annum: Randstad Education Plymouth: Randstad Education Ltd...

Volunteer your expertise as Trustee for The Society of Experimental Biology

Unpaid Voluntary Position : Reach Volunteering: Promising volunteer Trustee op...

Email Designer

£30000 - £35000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client is curr...

Psychology Teacher

£110 - £130 per hour: Randstad Education Reading: Psychology Teacher needed fo...

Day In a Page

Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

The Imitation Game, film review
England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week