In/out EU referendum would be 'false choice', says Cameron
Cameron wriggles on Today as poll shows Tory members know he's playing politics over Europe
DAVID CAMERON wriggled out of a firm commitment to an in/out referendum on Europe this morning, saying it would be a "false choice" for Britain.
His sinewy performance with John Humphrys on Radio 4's Today programme raised fresh questions over his honesty on Europe and cast doubts on whether Britain will be any clearer about his policy on a referendum when he delivers his long-awaited Europe speech this Friday.
Asked by Humphrys whether it would be a straight in/out referendum, Cameron said: "If we were to have an in/out referendum tomorrow or very shortly, I don't think that would be the right answer for the simple reason we would be giving people a false choice because right now a lot of people say 'I would like to be in Europe but I am not happy with a lot of aspects of that relationship so I want it changed'. That is my view, so I think an in-out referendum today is a false choice."
He said he would be seeking to renegotiate Britain's relationship with Europe because change was being forced on the EU with the moves towards closer integration by the 17 states in the euro. He said he was going to offer a referendum for the consent of the British people on that renegotiation, but he would not commit to leading Britain out of Europe after a referendum if he fails to get the deal he wants.
Cameron said: "I am in favour of Britain's membership of the European Union. I am optimistic and confident Britain can achieve the changes in the European Union. The single currency is driving a lot of changes in Europe. The opportunity for us to lead those changes is absolutely there."
The referendum will on "a fresh settlement – and a fresh consent on that settlement."
He dismissed the criticism from Ed Miliband, the Labour leader, that he is "sleepwalking us towards the exit" from Europe and from Tory grandee Lord Heseltine, who warned at the weekend that the PM was playing a dangerous game by flirting with the referendum promise.
Cameron said: "The principle should be if you are fundamentally changing the relationship with Europe, you should be having a referendum."
No one can really be sure what Cameron is up to, but the way The Mole sees it is that he will do his damnedest to avoid offering a straight in/out referendum. Instead, the choice will be over whether to accept a new settlement – IF, and it's a big one, he is able to renegotiate with fellow Europeans - or reject it and remain with the status quo.
Whether a NO vote in such a referendum would leave Britain with no option but to leave the EU is wide open to further arguments and rows. But it looks as though the voters will still be in the dark at the time of the next general election in 2015.
The fact is Cameron is personally a true believer in staying in Europe and is playing politics over Britain's continued membership of the EU for cynical party purposes as Nigel Farage's anti-Europe UKIP makes inroads on the Tory membership. And members of his own party know it.
A staggering 85 per cent of Tories polled by ConservativeHome say Cameron is only discussing a referendum because he needs to respond to the growing eurosceptism in his party and the country.
As Tim Montgomerie, editor of ConservativeHome, says this morning, that finding is a "shocker".