David Cameron hints at EU referendum
Prime Minister David Cameron, speaking yesterday during the final day of his visit to Brazil, has hinted that he would support a referendum on a new European treaty after the next general election.
Cameron believes that if the EU agrees a major treaty revision, British voters will need to be consulted. He told reporters: “I don’t think it is in Britain’s interests to leave the EU, but I do think what it is increasingly becoming the time for is a new settlement between Britain and Europe, and I think that new settlement will require fresh consent.”
Speaking about the relationship between UK and Europe, he said: “Closer economic ties between Eurozone countries will give us opportunities for changing our relationship with Europe.”
The prime minister is facing a lot of political pressure over European issues from both the UK Independence Party and some Conservative MPs. The latter fear that UKIP could take Conservative party seats during the next general election unless the PM takes a more Eurosceptic perspective.
In the next few months, Eurozone leaders will have to agree wide-ranging changes to the governance of the single currency, possibly by moving towards a fiscal union, to avoid the risks of another euro crisis.
When asked by the BBC regarding the possibility of opting out of EU justice and policing powers, David Cameron said: “That has to be done before the end of the year, and the opt-out is there. We’ll be exercising that opt-out.”
However, the office of Nick Clegg, the Liberal Democrat deputy prime minister, countered the PM’s words, saying: “There is currently no process of treaty change underway and no treaty change proposal on the table.”
His spokesman, confirming Mr Clegg’s opposition to opting out options, said: “Any opt-out in this area is still under review and discussion. Our decision must follow the interests of national security, public safety and Britain’s international reputation for leadership on cross-border security matters.”
David Cameron’s openness towards an EU referendum after general elections has also fuelled Labour’s criticism on his EU policy. Labour’s shadow foreign secretary, Douglas Alexander, said on Friday: “Another foreign trip and, apparently, yet another referendum policy from the prime minister. In past months he seemed to rule one out, now he seems to be hinting it might be in. It’s no way to run a serious strategy on Europe.”