Cameron open to British referendum on EU ties

AFP , Sunday 1 Jul 2012

British PM David Cameron says he backs a referendum on the renegotiation of London's membership inside the EU, adding he favours a 'different, more flexible and less onerous position'

Britain's Prime Minister David Cameron addresses a news conference after an European Union leaders summit in Brussels June 29, 2012. (Photo: Reuters)

Prime Minister David Cameron signalled on Saturday that he would back a referendum on the renegotiation of Britain's relationship with the European Union.

"For me the two words 'Europe' and 'referendum' can go together," Cameron wrote in Britain's Sunday Telegraph newspaper.

In an article published on the newspaper's website late Saturday, the Conservative premier said he favoured "a different, more flexible and less onerous position for Britain within the EU".

Cameron said he was not in favour of an "in/out referendum" on whether Britain should leave the EU, but would support a public vote on whether Britain should change its relationship with the organisation.

"Leaving would not be in our country's best interests," he wrote. "Yet the fact is the British people are not happy with what they have, and neither am I."

He added: "What I want -- and what I believe the vast majority of the British people want -- is to make changes to our relationship."

Cameron, who has stressed that Britain will not endorse measures leading towards closer EU integration aimed at shoring up the troubled euro currency, warned that Britain was being swamped by European bureaucracy.

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

Cameron has come under intense pressure from the "eurosceptic" wing of his party to claw back powers from Brussels, but the Conservatives' junior coalition partners, the Liberal Democrats, are more pro-Europe.

A poll for the Times newspaper this month found that half of Britons wanted an immediate say on the country's relationship with the European Union.

Britain's Foreign Office said on Thursday that the groundwork was being laid for a review of the balance of powers between Britain and the EU.

Britain is not a member of the 17-member eurozone nor of the border-free Schengen zone within the European Union.

It has long had an ambivalent relationship with Europe, from French leader Charles de Gaulle's refusal to let Britain join what was then the Common Market in the 1960s, to Cameron's refusal to sign up to an EU fiscal pact in December.

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