Cameron under pressure over EU referendum

2012-07-02 16:05


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London - Prime Minister David Cameron came under further pressure over Europe on Monday when a senior lawmaker from his party said Britain should exit the EU if it failed to renegotiate its relationship.

Liam Fox, the former defence minister, said Britain should be freed from "the dogma of ever closer union" with Europe, and called for a referendum on Britain's ties to the European Union.

In a speech, Fox said he wanted Britain to "negotiate a new relationship with the EU based on economic rather than political considerations".

If Europe blocked the move Britain "would have no alternative but to recommend rejection and consider departure from the EU" he said.

Like his Conservative party leader, Fox stressed however that now was not the time to hold the vote.

Cameron on Sunday opened the door to the possibility of a referendum but said it should not happen yet and left open what the question posed should be.

Knock-on impact

The prime minister faces mounting pressure from many members of his Conservative party for a referendum on a complete withdrawal from the EU, but knows that any such move would face strong opposition from his junior coalition partners, the more pro-Europe Liberal Democrats.

"There are those, including a growing number of my parliamentary colleagues, who call for a simple 'in or out' referendum to be held in Britain soon," Fox told a meeting organised by the TaxPayers' Alliance campaign group.

"I too believe that a referendum will be vital but I believe that having one now would be an error with great tactical risks."

Fox argued that measures taken at last week's European Union summit in Brussels would not solve the problems in the eurozone - and their knock-on impact on Britain.

He added that the EU's failure to deal with the crisis was posing "a real threat" to the global economy.

About 100 lawmakers from the centre-right Conservative party wrote to Cameron last week calling for a legal commitment to holding a referendum in the next parliament.

Audit planned

"For me the two words 'Europe' and 'referendum' can go together," Cameron wrote in the Sunday Telegraph, in a move seen by some as an effort to appease the rebels.

But he stressed that voters needed to be presented with "a real choice" before a vote could take place.

The government is already planning an audit of the impact of European laws in Britain which is likely to drive the campaign for repatriation of certain powers from Brussels.

"Whole swathes of legislation covering social issues, working time and home affairs should, in my view, be scrapped," Cameron said.

The main opposition Labour party has said it would consider a referendum on Europe but not until a clearer picture emerges on the future of Europe and the eurozone.

Read more on:    david cameron

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