David Cameron Promises 'In-Out' EU Referendum
Britons will be able to vote to leave the European Union by the end of 2017 if the Conservatives win the next general election, David Cameron has pledged.
The Prime Minister promised to negotiate a new settlement with Brussels and then stage a straight in-out referendum on British membership if he stays in power.
In one of the defining speeches of his premiership, he declared: "It is time for the British people to have their say. It is time to settle this European question in British politics."
He told business chiefs that the Tory manifesto will include a pledge to reach a fresh agreement, to be put to the vote within the first half of a five-year Parliament.
The vow sparked an angry row in Westminster, with both Nick Clegg and Ed Miliband warning that it will condemn the British economy to years of uncertainty.
The Labour leader claimed at PMQs: "He is running scared of UKIP. He has given in to his party and he can't deliver for Britain," as he came out against a referendum.
Mr Clegg warned that years of "grinding uncertainty because of an ill-defined, protracted renegotiation" would hit growth and jobs.
There were also immediate questions over whether other EU states will be prepared to negotiate a special "a la carte" membership for the UK.
In a boost to Mr Cameron, German Chancellor Angela Merkel said she was prepared to "talk about British wishes" to try and achieve a "fair compromise".
But her foreign minister Guido Westerwelle insisted "cherry-picking is not an option" and the President of the European Parliament Martin Schulz said Mr Cameron was "playing a dangerous game".
Laurent Fabius, the French foreign minister, added: "Say that Europe is a soccer club. You join this soccer club, but you can't say you want to play rugby."
Mr Cameron insisted that he does not want Britain to quit the 27-nation bloc and would "fight with all my heart and soul" for a yes vote when the time comes.
But he conceded that public mistrust of the EU is growing and democratic consent is now "wafer thin" because its role has snowballed since the last referendum in the 1970s.
"I never want us to pull up the drawbridge and retreat from the world. I am not a British isolationist but I do want a better deal for Britain," he said.
The Prime Minister rejected the idea of an immediate referendum, insisting it was the wrong time for such a "momentous decision" when the EU is still reeling from the eurozone crisis.
Instead, he outlined plans for a new treaty to reshape the EU, resolve the eurozone crisis, increase the group's flexibility, accountability and competitiveness and allow the return of powers from Brussels.
His "strong preference" is to push through reforms for the whole of the EU but he vowed to negotiate for the UK alone if other member states do not join him.
"The next Conservative manifesto in 2015 will ask for a mandate from the British people for a Conservative government to negotiate a new settlement with our European partners in the next Parliament," he said. "It will be a relationship with the single market at its heart.
"And when we have negotiated that new settlement, we will give the British people a referendum with a very simple in or out choice: to stay in the EU on these new terms or come out altogether.
"It will be an in-out referendum. Legislation will be drafted before the next election and if a Conservative Government is elected we will introduce the enabling legislation immediately and pass it by the end of that year.
"We will complete this negotiation and hold this referendum within the first half of the next Parliament."
Mr Cameron rejected claims that he is undermining the British economy by tabling a vote, insisting that an exit was more likely if the issue was ignored.
In a move set to delight many Tory MPs, he also signalled a referendum would go ahead even if he is forced into a second coalition. "If I am prime minister, this will happen," he vowed.
Effectively issuing an ultimatum to Brussels, Mr Cameron declared: "The danger is that Europe will fail and the British people will drift towards the exit.
"It is hard to argue that the EU would not be greatly diminished by Britain's departure," he said.
He called for "fundamental, far-reaching change" as he admitted that the "EU is seen as something that is done to people, rather than acting on their behalf".
Mr Cameron rejected the principle of "ever closer union" and called for the end to the "one-size-fits-all" approach with countries in future having different levels of involvement.
However, he set himself firmly against a British exit and warned voters not to choose to leave without considering all the consequences.
"I understand the appeal of going it alone, of charting our own course. But it will be a decision we will have to take with cool heads," he said.
"Of course, Britain could make her own way in the world outside the EU if we chose to do so. So could any other member state. The question we will have to ask ourselves is this: is that the very best future for our country?"
He added: "I want the European Union to be a success and I want a relationship between Britain and the EU that keeps us in it.
"There is no doubt that we are more powerful in Washington, in Beijing, in Delhi because we are a powerful player in the European Union. That matters for British jobs and British security."
He accepted that the scale of his task was vast but declared: "Over the coming weeks, months and years, I will not rest until this debate is won."
The referendum pledge should help the Tories combat the growing threat from UKIP and many Tory MPs hope it will be a turning point in the battle to win power in 2015.
The speech has been months in the planning - with the delay an indication of the difficult balancing act Mr Cameron is attempting to achieve.
It was eventually scheduled to happen in Amsterdam last Friday but was postponed because of the Algerian hostage crisis.
Political editor Adam Boulton said: "This is David Cameron's big throw of the dice politically. He is gambling that the British people will be so attracted by his offer that they will want to give the Conservatives a majority in 2015.
"He is also gambling that the impetus he will have politically from the voters will give him enough leverage with his European partners to negotiate a new deal for Britain."
Downing Street later played down the criticism from some European politicians and insisted Mr Cameron was confident of securing a "better deal for Britain".
"You would anticipate those reactions but it is not always our job to worry about what the foreign ministers are saying. It is our job to worry about what the British people are saying," his spokesman said.
what do you think?
Beware !!!!! this does not mean that we shall be free of the " European Court of Justice " and their interfering nonsense. That is a different set-up.
Words just words cameron - We`ve heard it all before. Now put your money where your mouth is.
" His " money ?
no obviously not his....he steals it from the the tax payer...
Good pic Phil - Where are you?
Surrey, near boxhill
Sorry Phil - which track are you at?
Oh sorry not me.....Its Ben Spies in Malaysia 2011
Thought you looked a bit handy. Ride on M8.
Well this has been edited ,it said 2017 last night, why not 2014 in jan, can cameron be trusted, it was already said in his campaign about europe,done anything No...., they had a vote on it ,Cameron threathen the use of his powers of a PM to ignore it, so blackmail plot were in you get the vote out you dont,we get re-elected same old "its not the right time" "its not in our interests at this moment in time" So its simple forget the blackmail plot,have the vote in jan 2014 or before then who ever wins knows where they are gonna stand in this BLACKMAIL PLOT
By the time we get to vote, if ever, this country will have lost the means to survive it alone, with everything being owned by multinationals and using foreign labour. We will have become a barren landscape wondering what to do next!
renationalisation maybe. lol thats the way forwards knock the multinationals. they run on credit and are broke anyhow.
The time of Empire and Splendid Isolation are gone. 50% of our exports go to the EU. It may be an uncomfortable truth but we need Europe a lot more than they need us. So much of our innercity regeneration comes from European money, money which our own government couldn't afford on their own. Its a global market, if we try and go it alone the poor will get poorer and only the very rich in the UK will benefit
They` ll probably award you an OBE for that post.
Wron Stevie - they need us more than we need them.
Not true I'm afraid, we have always traded with Europe even before membership. This country has a population of around 62-63 million and I simply cannot see any country turning their back on that big a market. We used to be members of an organisation called EFTA (European Free Trade Association), which offered free trade without the domination of Brussels. Perhaps we should aim for something like that again.... No Stevie, they need our trade just as much as we need theirs........
Britain has an overall trade balance of MINUS 139 billion and a trade in goods balance of MINUS 46 billion with the EU - they need us a lot more than we need them. JLR has increased production and jobs to supply the faster growing rest-of -the world Renault has cut vehicle production from 3.5 m down to 2m due to eurozone recession. Yes it's a global market and EU trade treaties restrict our full access to it - better we are a free democratic self-determining nation once again. One more thing, innercity regeneration is funded by the 16 billion we pay to the EU, who then decide on paying 8 billion back to us - so in fact, it is OUR money, not the EU's.
european association of free trades and tarriffs like in the 1980's perhaps. eta european treade sgreement or something. either way we dont want chinese made toot indebting us to imf world bank agenda anymore. saudi oil also use hho/electric vehicles/
d and d Phillips
Ah, the Okey Cokey Speech, in out in out, shake it all about!
Cameron to the EU - I want a renegotiation EU to Cameron - have a biscuit, in return for a levy on every new-born child Cameron to the people of EU Area17/Britain - Rejoice, I have secured a great victory People of EU Area17/Britain - I vote for Cheryl Cole Prepare to be screwed by the LibLabCon party.
This is the best news I have heard during the life of this Parliament. There remains the nagging feeling however, that this is merely a ploy to get David Cameron re elected. Whether he does get re elected however and whether does intend to keep his promise remains to be seen. It is however, a step in the right direction.........
Agree Gordon.... this is something we were denied by Labour.
Correct Gillie, In fact, until this speech was made, we who oppose membership of the EU have had no representation in Parliament and no voice at the ballot box. This was due to the fact that the leaders of all three main parties were in favour of membership. At least now, one of them has "promised" a vote but I would still prefer it sooner than later.........
i work in retail on the ground. i hate the eu and all it stands for. as a young working person if i dont get a vote all my weight time money will go to far right parties bnp etc. racism is a small price to pay.
I can understand the strength of your feelings Hamish but I would counsel caution as far as the BNP are concerned. Having read Schirer's "Rise and Fall of the Third Reich" some years ago, I believe it is all too easy to fall into the trap of turning to extremist parties. I am lucky enough to be retired now but someone in your position must feel helpless with anger.....
Cameron is putting the political interests of his party before the interests of Great Britain. He should be charged with treason.
So that's how desperate CallMeDave has become. A bribe to try and paper over the massive cracks in the Tory Party over Europe. If he was that sincere (ha!) about a referendum he would be steaming ahead with it. He isn't at all because he knows the majority of Britons want out!
I disagree...we are TOLD that the majority of Britains want out. Shouting louder than someone else does not make you the majority, or even right.
i work in retail nearly everyone i speak to wants out. the eu has failed and was doomed to fail. one superfactory instead of regional factories. it it super corporatism. the eu has caused massive unemployment and migration shifts. a total failure. people will vote far right unless they get out of eu.
That's true Dave, so let's have the vote now and find out just who is in the majority............
There is over 2 years of this Parliment still to run so why not negotiate now ! Oh yes " the wrong time" . This is no more than a desperate bid to cling to power for a further term and we all know how pledges stand up after an election has been won.
Especially Cameron's pledges.
Promises promises all empty promises. What next ? Of course I will still respect you in the morning!
we want a vote now before all the romanians and bulgarians flood over here. there are few jobs for the babybooms occurring now esp when overpopulation and technological integration noccurr at same time. no one wants the eu except corporate heads and investment bankers.
Obviously now isn't the time for British people to have a say on Europe, 4 years time is the time for British people to have their say if you are fool elough to believe Mr Cameron and his promises. Don't think he chose this date at random, it was done deliberately. By 2014 there will be at least 250,000 Bulgarians and Romanians here which we cannot stop. By 2017 we will be committed to greater fiscal, monetary and political integration with Europe which we cannot stop. Now means now Mr Cameron, not 4 years time - or didn;t they teach you that at Eton.
Has Dave ran this plan past his boss in the White House? We are the Americans veto in the EU, they won't let us leave, this is just more hot air from a gobsmith.
John, I think the American government official who recently said America wanted a "strong Britain" in a "strong "EU" might thave done the Eurosceptics a favour. The British people tradfitionally get very upset if they think the Americans are interfering in British affairs. This could provoke a backlash in some otherwise undecided voters. I do hope so............
Ukip has got camaron worried.
Shaun. And with good reason. Those voters who defect to UKIP will put Cameron back on the opposition benches so he will never have to fulfil his promise.
Cynical attempt to stop the haemorrhage of voters to UKIP. Well I don't buy it and neither will the electorate. A 2014 vote with an immediate closure of our borders to next years flood of Bulgarian and Romanian immigrants might have persuaded me to vote Tory again. But UKIP it remains.
No one trusts you Dave n chums. British people have voices yet you don't listen. Pathetic to say well IF you re elect me you can have a say but, ( as he pats us on the head wait another 4 years, then we will start to negotiate..... To little to late, Mr conman youve feathered your nest enough. Cant wait for next election .
Ever thought he might be on safe ground with a pledge based on 'if he wins the next general election' it also assumes he is still PM as we go into the next election
The rest of Europe has already told Dave there will be no renegotiation and they have the power to enforce their view, Dave has no power to enforce his. We have tried negotiating with the EU since we joined and got nowhere. Anyone who belives this will change in the future is deluding themselves.
We've heard it all before. David Cameron gave a 'cast iron guarantee' of a referendum back in 2009 but nothing came of it (on the feeble excuse that the Lisbon treaty/ EU constitution had already been ratified by the, at the time, Labour government). David Cameron is like Tony Blair (the first successful face transplant in British politics!). He says what he thinks people want to hear; one story for today and another for tomorrow or the day after. Pigs'll fly before the soviet style EU Commission gives up any power