Sunday 17 December 2017

Cameron pledges to give voters 'real choice' over EU

PATRICK HENNESSY in London

BRITAIN'S Prime Minister David Cameron has opened the door to a historic referendum on the country's future relationship with the European Union -- declaring that voters need a "real choice".

In an article in a British newspaper published today, Mr Cameron says Britain is danger of getting swamped by EU legislation and bureaucracy, which he would like to see scrapped.

He makes clear for the first time that changes will need the "full-hearted support of the British people" down the line, and adds: "For me, the two words 'Europe' and 'referendum' can go together."

Mr Cameron's landmark move comes as Liam Fox, Britain's former defence secretary, prepares to up the stakes by calling for an immediate renegotiation of Britain's relationship with the EU.

If other member states fail to back this solution, Dr Fox will say there should be a referendum, with the government recommending pulling the UK out of the EU.

Dr Fox, the standard bearer of the Tory right, will tell activists tomorrow: "For my own part, life outside the EU holds no terror. We have not moved the goalposts. But they have been moved nevertheless. We must now respond."

The former cabinet minister's clarion call is likely to be greeted with delight by eurosceptics on the right of the party -- a constituency that Mr Cameron has had difficulty in the past convincing that he is on the proper track.

The dramatic developments come in the wake of last week's Brussels summit, in which leaders of the eurozone countries took the first steps towards a rescue plan for the crisis-hit single currency.

At the same time, around 100 Conservative MPs wrote a letter to the prime minister calling on him to legislate for a referendum on Britain's relationship with the EU to be held in future years.

Many of Mr Cameron's most senior aides have been urging him to take such a step for several months.

At a news conference following the summit, however, the prime minister ruled out a straight "in/out" referendum on whether Britain should leave or remain inside the EU.

His comments alarmed many in his party with backbenchers predicting he would have to perform a U-turn.

Senior advisers to Mr Cameron insisted last night that this misrepresented his views and that he would use his article to set out his true thinking -- that a referendum was possible when the time was right.

Mr Cameron will use his speech to the Tory conference in October to spell out the areas where he wants Britain to claw back powers from Brussels. He pledges: "Let us start to spell out in more detail the parts of our European engagement we want and those to end."

Detailed plans for repatriating powers -- a key point of difference between the Tories and the Liberal Democrats -- are likely to be spelled out in the Conservative manifesto, either for the 2014 European parliamentary elections or the 2015 general election, or both.

Mr Cameron argues that an in/out referendum is not the right choice because the "vast majority of the British people" want changes to Britain's current relationship with the EU.

"The fact is the British people are not happy with what they have -- and frankly neither am I," he writes.

"Put simply, for those of us outside the eurozone, far from being too little Europe there is too much of it. Too much cost, too much bureaucracy, too much meddling in issues that belong to nation states or civil society or, indeed, individuals.

"Whole swathes of legislation covering social issues, working time and home affairs should, in my view, be scrapped."

© Telegraph

Sunday Independent

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