No quick poll on EU, says David Cameron

 

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David Cameron risked the wrath of Tory backbenchers tonight by again dismissing calls for a quick referendum on Britain's membership of the EU.

The Prime Minister said the shape of Europe was changing and the UK faced "big choices" about the relationship.

But although the status quo was "unacceptable", Mr Cameron insisted that voting to leave the union would not be the best thing for the country.

The comments came after former Cabinet minister Liam Fox ratcheted up the pressure by calling for an immediate renegotiation of Britain's terms of membership - adding that the country should quit if that cannot be achieved.

In a statement to the Commons this afternoon, Mr Cameron said: "As Europe changes to meet the challenges of the eurozone, so our relationship with Europe will change too.

"There are those who argue for an in-out referendum now.

"I don't agree with that because I don't believe leaving the EU would be best for Britain.

"Nor do I believe that voting to preserve the exact status quo would be right either."

He went on: "I don't agree that the status quo is acceptable.

"But just as I believe it would be wrong to have an immediate in-out referendum so it would also be wrong to rule out any type of referendum for the future.

"The right path for Britain is this. First, recognise that in the short term the priority for Europe is to deal with the instability and chaos.

"Second, over time take the opportunities for Britain to shape its relationship with Europe in ways that advance our national interest in free trade, open markets and co-operation.

"That should mean, as I argued yesterday, less Europe not more Europe. Less cost, less bureaucracy, less meddling in issues that belong to nation states.

"Third, all party leaders will have to address this question.

"But it follows from my argument that far from ruling out a referendum for the future as a fresh deal in Europe becomes clear, we should consider how best to get the full consent of the British people."

Labour leader Ed Miliband mocked the Prime Minister's referendum stance, accusing him of having a "hokey cokey weekend".

"Three days, three positions. First it was no, then it was yes, then it was maybe," he said.

"Has there been a change in the Government's position, yes or no?"

Mr Miliband told MPs Mr Cameron was trying to appease the divisions in his own party rather than acting in the national interest.

"A nudge, nudge, wink, wink European policy is neither good for the country nor will it keep his party quiet."

PA

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