Sunday

17th Feb 2019

Cameron planning June 2016 EU vote

  • David Cameron is set to announce a June 2016 referendum on EU membership. (Photo: consilium.europa.eu)

David Cameron is poised to set out plans for the UK’s referendum on European Union membership to be held in June next year.

According to a report in the Independent on Sunday, citing government sources, the prime minister will announce the date during his keynote address at his Conservative party’s annual conference in October.

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Cameron has long favoured an early referendum, as he seeks to cash in on strong personal popularity ratings following his surprisingly decisive victory in May’s UK elections.

However, the early poll will increase suspicions among Conservative eurosceptic MPs that Cameron is planning only modest changes to the UK’s membership terms.

The prime minister had indicated that he was keen to hold the vote in May, on the same day as elections to the Scottish and Welsh parliaments, but backed down following political pressure from the opposition parties and his own Conservative MPs.

Cameron set out his reform wish-list at an EU summit in June.

His main symbolic demand is that the phrase “ever-closer Union” be deleted from the preamble to the EU treaties, while key policy priorities include curbs on welfare for EU migrants, and safeguards for the UK as a country outside the eurozone.

He is also angling for the UK to get back its previously held opt-outs on social and employment rules, such as the directives on temporary workers and working time.

He has also conceded that the referendum will be held without a treaty reform having been ratified by other EU governments, making it more likely that Cameron will settle for a series of protocol or legal declarations that could be appended to the treaty of the EU’s next accession country.

The government’s referendum bill, on which debate will resume in September, states that the public vote will be held before the end of 2017, but Europe minister David Lidington has stated that the government will table amendments when it reaches the report stage in Parliament.

Recent opinion polls suggest that Britons will vote to remain in the 28 country bloc by a comfortable 60-40 margin.

Although the opposition Labour party has stated that it will not share a common platform with Cameron, the cross-party ‘Yes’ campaign announced last week that its top team will include a former Labour candidate, Will Straw, alongside Ryan Coetzee, advisor to former Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg, and the Conservative Lord Cooper.

Meanwhile, Cameron’s finance minister George Osborne is in Paris, making the first of a series of visits to EU capitals as part of the UK government’s charm offensive.

The French government of socialist President Francois Hollande is believed to be one of the most reluctant to allow the UK to loosen its EU ties

"I want to see a new settlement for Europe, one that makes it a more competitive and dynamic continent to ensure it delivers prosperity and security for all of the people within it, not just for those in Britain," Osborne is expected to say in a speech on Monday (27 July).

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