British PM's delayed EU speech now Wednesday in London

AFP , Monday 21 Jan 2013

Prime Minister David Cameron postpones his speech on EU relationship with Britain due to the Algerian hostage crisis

Cameron
Britain's Prime Minister David Cameron leaves a meeting with Holocaust survivor Freda Wineman of the Holocaust Educational Trust at 10 Downing Street in London January 21, 2013 (Photo: Reuters)

British Prime Minister David Cameron will give his long-awaited speech on the future relationship with the EU on Wednesday in London, his spokesman said.

Cameron had been due to deliver the speech in Amsterdam last Friday but was forced to postpone it as he was dealing with the Algeria gas plant hostage crisis.

"On Wednesday, in central London in the morning, the prime minister will give his speech on the European Union," the spokesman told reporters at a regular briefing Monday.

The venue in central London was still being kept under wraps by Downing Street.

Asked why the original intention to hold the speech in another EU country had been shelved, Cameron's spokesman said it was because of a busy week in which he is also travelling to the World Economic Forum in the Swiss ski resort of Davos.

"As you know you we were planning to give it in Amsterdam. Unfortunately that didn't prove possible, and Wednesday morning fits best with the prime minister's schedule," the spokesman said.

According to extracts given to the media before the speech was called off, Cameron was to have warned that Britain could drift out of the EU unless the 27-member bloc made changes.

In the grand setting of the former stock exchange in the Dutch city, he was to have said that Britons were tiring of the EU's "lack of democratic accountability".

"If we don't address these challenges, the danger is that Europe will fail and the British people will drift towards the exit," he was to have said.

The pre-released extracts did not, however, contain a widely expected announcement of plans to renegotiate Britain's EU membership and to put the new terms to the British public in a referendum.

Cameron faces pressure from the eurosceptic right wing of his Conservative party to take a stand on Europe, an issue that has long divided the party.

His spokesman denied the new date for the speech would affect Cameron's preparations for the often-gruelling session of prime minister's questions in parliament on Wednesday, saying: "He will give his speech and then he will take prime minister's questions in the usual way."

The Amsterdam cancellation was the latest in a series of delays for the speech.

Plans to give the speech first emerged six months ago and there was talk that he might deliver it at the Conservative party's annual conference in October, followed by reports that he would give it at Christmas.

The speech was then widely expected on January 22 but Cameron moved it forward when it emerged that it clashed with commemorations for the 50th anniversary of Franco-German reconciliation following World War II.

Last year, Cameron joked that the long delays were due to his "tantric" approach. By coming to Europe, Cameron had intended to follow in the footsteps of previous British prime ministers who have made major European policy speeches on the continent.

In 1988 Margaret Thatcher spoke in Bruges, Belgium, while Tony Blair spoke in Warsaw in 2000. Winston Churchill meanwhile called for a "United States of Europe" in a speech in Zurich in 1946.

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