David Cameron must go out and make the case for Britain's continued membership of the European Union, one of the grandees of the Conservative Party has warned.
Lord Howe of Aberavon, who served as chancellor and foreign secretary in Margaret Thatcher's government, said the Prime Minister had made his position more difficult by his "repeated concessions" to the Eurosceptics. He said that Mr Cameron now must give a lead on the issue, and not leave it to outside individuals and organisations such as the US President, Barack Obama, and the CBI.
Mr Cameron is currently committed to renegotiating the terms of Britain's membership and then putting the outcome to a vote in an in/out referendum after the next general election if the Conservatives win power.
Lord Howe – whose resignation over Europe in 1990 triggered Mrs Thatcher's downfall – said it was not enough for the PM simply to say that he wants Britain to remain in the EU.
In a statement released by the pro-EU British Influence campaign, Lord Howe said: "The more people understand and experience the reality of Britain's place in today's interdependent world... the less likely they are to want this country to leave the European Union.
"Sadly... the Government made its own position on Europe, and in Europe, more difficult. Now the Prime Minister and his ministers need to make the case for membership strongly and clearly, rather than just leaving it to President Obama, Nissan and the CBI."
Yesterday, British Influence released a YouGov poll of more than 700 leaders in politics, business, the media, arts, charities and academia, showing that 69 per cent believed that Britain should stay in the EU, against 23 per cent who wanted to leave. Of those who want to remain in, 81 per cent thought the Government was not doing enough to make the case.
British Influence director Peter Wilding said: "Overall, the results show the value placed in Britain's relationship with the EU among opinion formers in Britain today, but more work needs to be done."
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