Cameron to reveal plan for poll on British role in EU

Tue, Dec 18, 2012, 00:00

British prime minister David Cameron is to lay out his plans for a referendum on the United Kingdom’s European Union membership in a speech next month that has been repeatedly delayed because he was unable to decide on a course to follow.

In the speech, Mr Cameron is expected to promise to negotiate a better deal for the UK in Brussels and to bring that deal before a referendum to be held after the 2015 election. Mr Cameron is under pressure from some Conservative MPs to promise an in/out referendum, though the prime minister again rejected that course when he reported back yesterday to the Commons on last week’s EU Brussels summit.

Asked to say if he could ever imagine Britain leaving the EU, Mr Cameron said: “That is not a position I support, so I do not spend my time thinking about it, but clearly all futures for Britain are imaginable.

“We are in charge of our own destiny and can make our own choices. I believe that the choice we should make is to stay in the European Union, to be a member of the single market and to maximise our impact in Europe.

“But when we are unhappy with parts of the relationship we should not be frightened of standing up and saying so,” said Mr Cameron, who is being urged by some of his cabinet to promise a simple referendum before the 2015 election.

Banking union

The outcome of talks on a European Union banking union was lauded by Mr Cameron, who said the UK had won concessions for non-euro zone member states, despite initial European Commission declarations that the UK’s demands were impossible.

Under the double-majority rules, non-euro zone countries would have to vote separately on proposals that could threaten their financial industries, rather than see matters decided by the weight of euro zone countries alone.

Labour leader Ed Miliband said he agreed with Mr Cameron’s view that the UK should not leave the EU, but “why does he let member after member of his cabinet brief that they are open to leaving the EU?”, he said.

“British business is deeply concerned that the drift in his party and the direction of his policy means that we are sleepwalking towards exit. I share that concern,” Mr Miliband told the House of Commons debate.

“He is stranded between party interest and national interest. The problem, however, is that nobody else in his party is holding back,” he said, urging Mr Cameron to stop following his party on Europe “and start leading it”.