Wednesday

13th Dec 2017

UK looks to 2017 for EU membership vote

  • Cameron: A No to the EU would be a 'one-way ticket' (Photo: number10.gov.uk)

Britain will hold a referendum on whether to stay in the EU by the end of 2017, David Cameron promised on Wednesday (23 January) in a long-delayed speech on Britain's status in Europe.

Delivering the speech in London, Cameron promised to re-negotiate Britain's EU membership terms followed by a public vote if his Conservative party, which is currently in coalition with the pro-EU Liberal Democrats, wins the next election, expected in 2015.

Thank you for reading EUobserver!

Subscribe now for a 30 day free trial.

  1. €150 per year
  2. or €15 per month
  3. Cancel anytime

EUobserver is an independent, not-for-profit news organization that publishes daily news reports, analysis, and investigations from Brussels and the EU member states. We are an indispensable news source for anyone who wants to know what is going on in the EU.

We are mainly funded by advertising and subscription revenues. As advertising revenues are falling fast, we depend on subscription revenues to support our journalism.

For group, corporate or student subscriptions, please contact us. See also our full Terms of Use.

If you already have an account click here to login.

Quizzed by reporters on whether a referendum would be a condition of any future coalition agreements, Cameron replied: "If I am Prime Minister, this will happen".

Legislation for a public vote would be pushed through Parliament within a year of the next election, with the poll taking place "in the first half of the next Parliament."

Although he refused to be drawn on specific EU powers to be targeted for repatriation to the Westminster parliament, Cameron said he would consider environmental and social policy legislation as well as criminal law. He also voiced support for greater involvement of national parliaments in EU lawmaking, describing them as the "true source of real democratic legitimacy and accountability in the EU."

In a nod to the controversial working time directive, which caps the average working hours in many sectors including health care, he said it is "neither right nor necessary to claim that the integrity of the single market, or full membership of the European Union requires the working hours of British hospital doctors to be set in Brussels irrespective of the views of British parliamentarians and practitioners."

Re-writing Britain's membership terms would require the support of the 26 other EU countries, many of which are unwilling to open up the EU treaties.

While the speech was quickly welcomed by many eurosceptics, Cameron reiterated his support for Britain remaining in the EU and warned critics that a No vote taking Britain out of the 27-country bloc would be "a one-way ticket, not a return."

"Britain's national interest is best served in a flexible, adaptable and open European Union and that such a European Union is best with Britain in it," he said, telling reporters that he would "campaign ... with my heart and soul" for a Yes vote on the new UK-EU settlement.

Noting that "public disillusionment with the EU is at an all time high" in Britain, Cameron insisted that it is "time to settle this European question in British politics ... People feel that the EU is heading in a direction that they never signed up to. They resent the interference in our national life by what they see as unnecessary rules and regulation. And they wonder what the point of it all is."

Britain last held a referendum on whether to remain in the then EEC in 1975, voting by a two thirds majority in favour of membership.

In 2011, it adopted legislation guaranteeing a referendum on any future transfer of national powers to the EU.

However, Cameron has come under pressure to call a public vote on Europe from eurosceptics within his party.

The Conservarives are alarmed by a sharp rise in support for the anti-EU UK Independence party, which has touched 10 percent in recent opinion polls and which threatens to poach Tory voters in the next elections.

The opposition Labour party has refused to match Cameron's pledge, with foreign affairs spokesman Douglas Alexander saying that Cameron's "vague roadmap" will create more uncertainty for businesses.

He added that Cameron had become "a victim of the Conservative party."

For his part, Richard Ashworth, the leader of the Conservative MEPs in Brussels, said Cameron had "a very positive message to the rest of Europe," adding that it is right for Britain to "remain right at the heart of Europe, but not at any price."

Former cabinet minister and EU trade commissioner Peter Mandelson labelled the speech as "schizophrenic," noting that the rest of Europe "do not regard the EU as a cafeteria service where you bring your own tray and leave with what you want."

Meanwhile, Ukip leader Nigel Farage said that the speech is an attempt by Cameron to "get Ukip off his back."

"If Mr Cameron was really serious about renegotiation, then he would invoke Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty, which is the only mechanism that exists within the treaties to take powers back," he said.

Poland: UK no longer a leading EU country

Britain has lost its place in the club of leading EU nations over its plan to hold a referendum on EU membership, the Polish foreign minister has said.

Romania searching for EU respectability

Ten years after its accession and a year before holding the EU presidency, the fastest-growing EU economy wants to "engage" more with its partners. But concerns over the rule of law continue to give the country a bad image.

News in Brief

  1. MEPs vote to allow phosphate additives in kebabs
  2. Babis government sworn in in Czech Republic
  3. Russia looks to crypto-currencies to evade EU sanctions
  4. Juncker embroiled in Luxembourg wire-tapping trial
  5. Kurz close to forming new Austrian right-wing government
  6. Ministers reach deal on fish quotas but overfishing continues
  7. UK parliament to vote on right to veto final Brexit deal
  8. French government rules out Corsican autonomy

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. ACCACFOs Risk Losing Relevance If They Do Not Embrace Technology
  2. UNICEFMake the Digital World Safer for Children & Increase Access for the Most Disadvantaged
  3. European Jewish CongressWelcomes Recognition of Jerusalem as the Capital of Israel and Calls on EU States to Follow Suit
  4. Mission of China to the EUChina and EU Boost Innovation Cooperation Under Horizon 2020
  5. European Gaming & Betting AssociationJuncker’s "Political" Commission Leaves Gambling Reforms to the Court
  6. AJC Transatlantic InstituteAJC Applauds U.S. Recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s Capital City
  7. EU2017EEEU Telecom Ministers Reached an Agreement on the 5G Roadmap
  8. European Friends of ArmeniaEU-Armenia Relations in the CEPA Era: What's Next?
  9. Mission of China to the EU16+1 Cooperation Injects New Vigour Into China-EU Ties
  10. EPSUEU Blacklist of Tax Havens Is a Sham
  11. EU2017EERole of Culture in Building Cohesive Societies in Europe
  12. ILGA EuropeCongratulations to Austria - Court Overturns Barriers to Equal Marriage

Latest News

  1. Brits in EU-27 are uncertain, alone and far from protected
  2. 2018 fishing quotas agreed - but Brexit muddies waters
  3. Medical HQ to spearhead EU military push
  4. Facebook to shift ad revenue away from Ireland
  5. EU renews glyphosate approval, pledges transparency
  6. Romania searching for EU respectability
  7. Last chance for Poland to return property to rightful owners
  8. Commission attacks Tusk on 'anti-European' migrant plan

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Centre Maurits CoppietersCelebrating Diversity, Citizenship and the European Project With Fundació Josep Irla
  2. European Healthy Lifestyle AllianceUnderstanding the Social Consequences of Obesity
  3. Union for the MediterraneanMediterranean Countries Commit to Strengthening Women's Role in Region
  4. Bio-Based IndustriesRegistration for BBI JU Stakeholder Forum about to close. Last chance to register!
  5. European Heart NetworkThe Time Is Ripe for Simplified Front-Of-Pack Nutrition Labelling
  6. Counter BalanceNew EU External Investment Plan Risks Sidelining Development Objectives
  7. EU2017EEEAS Calls for Eastern Partnership Countries to Enter EU Market Through Estonia
  8. Dialogue PlatformThe Turkey I No Longer Know
  9. World Vision7 Million Children at Risk in the DRC: Donor Meeting to Focus on Saving More Lives
  10. EPSU-Eurelectric-IndustriAllElectricity European Social Partners Stand up for Just Energy Transition
  11. European Friends of ArmeniaSignature of CEPA Marks a Fresh Start for EU-Armenia Relations
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Energy Ministers Pledge to Work More Closely at Nordic and EU Level