Reuters: The European Union needs to be more flexible if it is to persuade the British people to vote to stay in the bloc at a referendum due by the end of 2017, Prime Minister David Cameron said on Monday (November 9).
Cameron wants to reform Britain’s EU ties and is due to outline his demands for renegotiation of its European Union membership terms in a letter to the President of the European Council, Donald Tusk, to be published on Tuesday (November 10).
“In a way you can boil down all of my negotiations to one word: flexibility. Is this organisation flexible enough to make sure that countries inside the euro zone can grow and succeed, and countries outside the euro zone like Britain can find what they need as well? If it’s flexible enough, we’ll stay. If it’s not flexible enough we’ll have to ask ourselves a very profound question: is this organisation for us? And I think people in Europe know I’m deadly serious about that,” Cameron told an audience of business leaders at the Confederation of British Industry (CBI) conference. Cameron’s speech was briefly interrupted by two hecklers who unfurled a banner reading “CBI - Voice of Brussels” in what appeared to be a protest against the employer group’s position on EU membership.
While Cameron has never ruled out campaigning to leave the EU if he failed to secure any agreement, the tone of his speech was his strongest assertion to date that the status quo is unacceptable.
However, Cameron also repeated that he wants Britain to remain in the 28-nation bloc, which it joined in 1973, and is confident a deal can be struck to satisfy Britain and its partners.
“These are big and important changes and I think it’s vital that we achieve them. And once I’ve achieved them, if I can achieve them, you will see me campaigning vigourously for Britain to stay in a reformed Europe. And as I’ve said, if I can’t achieve them I rule nothing out. Europe needs to change and I think it’s very important we make this argument,” Cameron said.
Cameron has faced criticism both at home and abroad, including from his own eurosceptic backbenchers, for not spelling out details of the concessions he is seeking from other European leaders with detailed discussions expected to accelerate before a summit next month.
Cameron’s letter to Tusk is expected to include demands such as barring in-work benefits for EU migrants for four years, an exemption from any closer EU integration, and more powers for national governments to block EU legislation.
Opinion polls show most Britons favour staying within the EU although support for remaining versus leaving has narrowed in recent months.