Saturday

25th Feb 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.

Dear EUobserver reader

Subscribe now for unrestricted access to EUobserver.

Sign up for 30 days' free trial, no obligation. Full subscription only 15 € / month or 150 € / year.

  1. Unlimited access on desktop and mobile
  2. All premium articles, analysis, commentary and investigations
  3. EUobserver archives

EUobserver is the only independent news media covering EU affairs in Brussels and all 28 member states.

♡ We value your support.

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.

Column / Brexit Briefing

Searching for a voice and a standard bearer

As Britons come to terms with the reality of Brexit many Remainers are now listless, looking for someone to present a viable alternative to Theresa May's dominance

News in Brief

  1. Spanish court jails former IMF chief Rato
  2. Macron proposes Nordic-style economic model for France
  3. Germany posts record high budget surplus
  4. Labour ousts Ukip in Brexit homeland
  5. Dutch lower house approves EU-Ukraine treaty
  6. WTO says Russian pork ban was illegal
  7. Belgian nuclear plant made 'significant progress' on safety
  8. Report: Commission gauging EU support for Poland sanctions

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. EURORDISJoin the Rare Disease Day and Help to Advocate for More Research on Rare Diseases
  2. European Healthy Lifestyle AllianceStudents Who Are Considered Fit Get Better Grades in School
  3. QS World MBA TourMeet with Leading International Business Schools in Paris on March 4th
  4. Malta EU 2017Economic Governance: Agreement Reached on Structural Reform Support Programme for Member States
  5. Socialists & DemocratsWomen Have to Work Ten Years Longer to Match Lifetime Earnings of Men
  6. Counter BalanceTrans-Adriatic Pipeline Is a Major Risk for Banks, Warns New Analysis
  7. Martens CentreEU and US Migration Policies Compared: Join the Debate on February 28th
  8. Swedish EnterprisesTechnology and Data Flows - Shaping the Society of Tomorrow
  9. UNICEFNearly 1.4 Million Children at Risk of Death as Famine Looms Across Africa and Yemen
  10. Malta EU 2017End of Roaming Fees: Council Reaches Agreement on Wholesale Caps
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Innovation House Opens in New York to Help Startups Access US Market
  12. Centre Maurits CoppietersMinorities and Migrations