David Cameron has ignored calls from his Eurosceptic backbenchers for a snap referendum on our continuing membership of the European Union, although he accepts that the UK faces some challenging decisions in the near future as the shape of Europe changes in response to the worsening financial crisis.
Mr Cameron acknowledged that the current situation was not acceptable but added that he believes exiting Europe would be a mistake for Britain.
Members of the Conservative party have recently made moves to try to persuade Mr Cameron to begin to draft plans for a referendum on the matter. Dr Liam Fox, a former cabinet minister, publically called for Britain to renegotiate its membership terms.
Mr Cameron was keen to stress to Parliament that Britain receives a net benefit from its membership of the EU and urged caution to those calling for a referendum.
“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 said.
Bill Cash MP quoted the wisdom of his taxi driver, who believes that the Conservatives could gain a parliamentary majority if they took a strong line on Europe.
“The British people are not stupid, they understand the position, give them renegotiation, give them a referendum, get rid of the Coalition agreement, and then he (Mr Cameron) will get re-elected by a massive majority,” he quoted.
Senior Tories agree that a snap referendum might be lost amid fears of damage to an already weak UK economy; however, those same MPs would like a firm commitment from Mr Cameron that a referendum would be held in the next Parliament after 2015.
Mr Cameron agreed that this idea had merit, but added that the shape of the EU was changing so quickly it would be hard to envisage what sort of vote could be taken in three years’ time.
David Cameron faces down MPs’ call for immediate EU referendum (The Telegraph)
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