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

Column LAST UPDATED AT 10:31 ON Mon 14 Jan 2013

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". · 

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Mr Cameron's truest belief may be that he doesn't want his footnote in history to say that British isolation and subsequent decline began on his watch.

Cameron is, once again, sneering at the British Electorate - his "Dance of the Seven Veils" on such a vital issue simply emphasises his mendacity on this and many other issues - he certainly owes the British people a referendum.

Playing for time and hoping that the problem will simply "go away" is not an option. Cameron would have been very well-advised to have kept his original promise of a referendum - by now we would all know where this nation stands on the issue - and we could all move on and plan accordingly; whether in or out, at least we would have been spared this continuing self-destructive and agonising uncertainty.

Cameron is NOT a man to be trusted with the future of this nation - he is not a natural leader and he displays political cowardice and a remarkable arrogance - he is handing our country to Europe on a plate and the next General Election to Labour. God save us all from this arrogant and inept floppy-haired public school boy!

Rory - of course I respect your views - but I really don't think that we need to fear "isolation" and "decline" if we decide to leave the EU. We had a lot of similar defeatist scaremongering at the outset of the Second World War - notably from Lord Halifax (granted, on a much more precarious matter) - we are uniquely well-placed to take advantage of a huge amount of international goodwill from potential trading partners with whom, currently, we are seriously inhibited, by the EU, from forming bilateral trading agreements.

ABSOLUTE NONSENSE - HE HAS STEADILY MAINTAINED HIS POSITION AS CLEARLY OUTLINED IN THE RADIO 4 INTERVIEW and has never varied from it.
Just remember, he can't give his negotiating points away - even to you!

I hope his delay in calling a referendum, is only a way of trying to get a deal from the EU, but with most of Europe hurting, broke and in recession, I do not think he will get much of a hearing.
Back to the referendum and time for the UK to stand up and say no to totalitarian government , by a non elected council of ministers, that has proved it can not run an economy, nor respect the voters who have repeatedly told them they do not like the way the EU is going.

We have always fought for our independence and will do so again!

Cameron needs to know that support is conditional, and he has used up his last promise.

Thank you "macdquad" - I have no doubt that Cameron has "steadily maintained his position" - but WHAT IS that position?