Cameron will offer voters in-out referendum over EU membership, says BorisBoris Johnson 'unveiled' PM's plan to hold a referendum on EU
08:05 GMT, 10 December 2012
David Cameron is preparing to promise a referendum offering either a new, looser relationship with the EU or a British exit, Boris Johnson suggested yesterday.
The Prime Minister will set out his thinking on Britain’s future in Europe in a major speech within weeks amid growing agitation in the Tory party over the issue.
Mr Johnson, who has discussed plans for a referendum with Mr Cameron, predicted voters would be offered ‘broadly an in/out referendum on the new terms’.
Big mouth: Mayor of London Boris Johnson revealed that the Prime Minister is going to announce his ideas for Britain's future relationship with the EU and that a referendum is on the cards
His intervention irritated Downing Street, which has been reluctant to discuss what the Prime Minister is planning.
Mr Cameron will insist he does not think it would be in Britain’s interests to leave the EU but wants to return to a more arms-length, trade-based relationship with Brussels.
He is expected to set out details of how he wants to renegotiate our membership, repatriating powers in key areas.
Former Tory cabinet minister Dr Liam Fox will increase the pressure on the Prime Minister today, insisting that the party needs a ‘settled position that is clear, concise and consistent’.
‘The longer we hold a clear position, the more likely we are to be credible and thus to both take advantage of a growing trend amongst the British electorate and to see off parties such as UKIP by supplanting them rather than accommodating them,’ he will say.
In or out: David Cameron will offer a referendum on EU membership, said London mayor Boris Johnson
The former defence secretary will say public attitudes point towards a ‘new, looser and largely economic relationship with the European Union’, adding: ‘I, for one, hope to see “back to a common market” as the Conservative slogan on Europe at the next general election.’
‘To be frank, if the choice is between the current trajectory towards ever closer union and leaving, then I would choose to leave, albeit reluctantly.
‘If the choice is between a looser, more economic relationship and leaving, then I would choose to stay. It is a view that , I believe, is gaining ever greater traction with the British people,’ he will add.
London Mayor Mr Johnson said yesterday that Britain should exploit the eurozone crisis to free itself from key areas of the EU, including fisheries policy, social policy and farming subsidies.
He agreed with Mr Cameron that an in/out referendum on the current terms of membership was ill-advised, a shift from the position he held earlier this year.
Secret vote: Downing street has been reluctant to reveal details of Prime Minister David Cameron's plans for Britain's relationship with the EU
‘If you have a simple in/out referendum I think at the moment the chances are that the British people would say stuff that for a game of soldiers, and 56 per cent say let’s pull out,’ Mr Johnson told Sky News.
Largely economic: Liam Fox wants to take the EU 'back to a common market'
‘Now the risk – and I’ve been writing
about Europe for about 25 years, and I spent a long time in Brussels as a
correspondent, and the really good bit about it is the single market —
that’s something that allows British firms, British jobs, British
enterprise to work freely with other European countries in a way that I
think might be in peril if we were to pull out unilaterally.
‘So all I’m saying is let’s have a renegotiation in which we chop off the bits we don’t like, chop off all the kind of excrescences likes the fisheries policy and the social chapter or whatever.
‘I think probably what David Cameron is going to say, he’s got some speech coming up, I reckon he is going to commit to a referendum which will be broadly an in/out referendum on the new terms.
‘So we’ve got to go in and get a better deal for Britain, which is basically the single market, making sure that British ministers are in the internal market able to protect British interests, make sure that British companies continue to have unfettered access to that market.’
Mr Johnson, seen as one of Mr Cameron’s chief rivals for the Conservative party leadership, repeated his attacks on Eurozone countries for rushing ‘full tilt towards fiscal union’.
As Mr Cameron prepared for a Brussels summit on Eurozone plans to coordinate banking policy later this week, the Mayor predicted such a union would be a ‘disaster’ for those countries that join it.
Former Labour prime minister Tony Blair warned last month that Mr Cameron would be shunned by other EU leaders if he attempted to carve out a special deal for Britain in exchange for agreeing to a new Eurozone treaty on political and economic union.