monday, 2 july of 2012

Cameron would consider U.K. vote on Europe ties


Cameron would consider U.K. vote on Europe ties

British Prime Minister David Cameron says he is prepared to consider a referendum on the U.K.'s relationship with Europe, an apparent move to appease some members of his Conservative Party, but one that could cause tension with his pro-European junior coalition partners, the Liberal Democrats.

Mr. Cameron said he wanted British voters to have a "real choice" on changes in the country's relationship with the European Union, and that could be done via a referendum or a general election.

Laying out his views in an article in the Sunday Telegraph newspaper, he said that he wasn't advocating a referendum on whether the U.K. should be in or out of the EU or that a decision on a referendum would be made any time soon.

In a survey earlier this year conducted by pollsters YouGov PLC, 48% of Britons who would vote in a referendum said they would opt to leave the EU while 30% would choose to remain a member.

Mr. Cameron's effort appears to be aimed at appeasing his party's backbenchers, some who are vocal in urging the U.K. to take a step back from its European relationship. Picking up on many of their key complaints, he said in his article that he believed the EU has too much bureaucracy and meddles too much in what should be national issues, adding that legislation covering social issues, working time and home affairs should "be scrapped."

Still, he was quick to say that leaving the EU altogether wasn't in the U.K.'s best interests.

"As a trading nation Britain needs unfettered access to European markets and a say in how the rules of that market are written," he said. "The single market is at the heart of the case for staying in the EU. But it also makes sense to co-operate with our neighbours to maximise our influence in the world and project our values of freedom and democracy."

Nonetheless, the adoption of a more skeptical stance toward Europe by the leaders of the Conservative Party could cause tension with the Liberal Democrats. While the coalition agreement says any transfer of more powers from the U.K. to the EU should require a referendum, the pro-European Liberal Democrats don't see the need for one now. Traditionally, their party policy has been that if there is to be a referendum on Europe it should be a straight in-out one.

"We understand the internal divisions in the Conservative Party that give rise to this sort of debate," a Liberal Democrat spokesman said. But, he added: "The Liberal Democrats do not believe that there is much public appetite at the moment for an abstract discussion about a referendum on an undefined question at an unspecified time in a future parliament."

(Published by WSJ - July 1, 2012)

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