David Cameron: ‘I don’t want to leave the EU’
More than 100,000 people sign petition demanding referendum
Vote in favour would not be binding on Government – but would put huge pressure on PM to let country decide
“Numerous opinion polls have shown that the majority of people want out.”
PM will NOT support a referendum on UK membership even if MPs vote in favour of one
Daily Mail | Oct 2, 2011
By Martin Robinson
David Cameron and William Hague have today said they have no wish to hold a referendum on Europe as MPs are set to discuss whether there should be one.
In a move that will dismay the right of the Tory party set to gather in Manchester their leadership says withdrawal from the EU ‘would be bad for Britain’.
It was revealed today MPs are set to vote on a referendum before Christmas after a petition with more than 100,000 signatures was submitted calling for the public to be given the chance to decide whether Britain should stay in the EU.
It will be the first time Parliament has held a major vote on seeking the public’s view since the 1975 referendum confirming the decision to join – but if MPs vote in favour of a referendum the result would not be binding on the Government.
Mr Cameron said he would not back a public vote on UK membership, saying most people do not want it.
‘It’s not our view that there should be an in/out referendum. I don’t want Britain to leave the EU. I think it’s the wrong answer for Britain,’ he said.
‘What most people want in this country is not actually to leave the EU, but to reform the EU and make sure that the balance of powers between a country like Britain and Europe is better.’
The break-up of the single currency would be ‘very bad’ for the UK, even though it is not a member of the euro and will not join under his leadership, said the Prime Minister.
‘If bad things happen in the eurozone, that affects us,’ he said. ‘We can’t insure ourselves from the fact that the German and French economies – the two biggest economies in Europe – have stalled. That’s a real problem for us.
‘I will always defend the British national interest. I think our interest is to be in the EU, because we need that single market. We are a trading nation, it is vital for our economic future.
‘But I have always made clear my view that we have given too many powers to Europe and there are some powers I would like back from Europe and there may be future opportunities to bring that about.
‘I’m not a pessimist on Europe, but I do think we can do better.’
Foreign Secretary William Hague also said this morning that a referendum on EU membership would not be ‘sensible’ at a time of economic crisis.
Asked about how the Government would approach any Commons debate on a referendum, Mr Hague told Sky News’s Murnaghan programme: ‘Of course we will look at any motion, but we won’t be in favour of holding now an in/out referendum on Europe.
‘At a time of economic difficulty to actually say to people, instead of getting everything growing in our economy, we are going to spend our time on an in/out referendum which will create uncertainty for businesses in Britain – that wouldn’t be a very sensible course of action.’
Mr Hague denied that the Conservatives were split on the issue of Europe: ‘I have meetings with many Conservative backbenchers and I think we are very closely aligned – the party leadership, the Government and the great mass of the Conservative Party – on this.’
The Commons Backbench Business Committee is expected to set a date before Christmas for a one-day debate in the House of Commons on a referendum on EU membership. The vote will not be binding on the Government, but if MPs back a referendum, it will put massive pressure on Mr Cameron to put the issue to the country.
The committee’s Labour chairman Natascha Engel told the Mail on Sunday: ‘Given the crisis in the eurozone, this issue has become more relevant than ever. There is a clear majority of backbench MPs who want to debate this and we have to respond to that.
‘The EU today is completely different from the one the British people voted to join in 1975. It is time to examine the position again.
‘For years it has suited successive governments to avoid debating whether Britain should leave the EU. The whole purpose of my committee is to make sure the big issues of the day are aired in Parliament. People in pubs and shops all over Britain are discussing our membership of the EU and it is time MPs openly debated it too.’
UK Independence Party leader Nigel Farage branded Mr Cameron a ‘confidence trickster’ on Europe.
‘Finally the Prime Minister has shown his true colours regarding the EU after many months of eurosceptic posturing. He does not want an in/out referendum and he does not want Britain to leave the EU. These comments have let down hundreds of thousands of Tory voters who gave him their support as they thought he would be tough on this issue,’ he said.
‘He also says that he believes that most people do not want to actually leave the EU, but to reform it. How can he possibly know that without asking the great British public? Numerous opinion polls have shown that the majority of people want out.’