British Prime Minister David Cameron has said that British voters will be offered the chance to implement “real change” to the U.K.’s relationship with the European Union at the next general election. Asked in a radio interview for more details the prime minister did not elaborate, saying his proposals will be explained in his speech on the E.U. later this month.
The issue of Europe has been an irritation to Cameron, who has had to endure criticism from his own party and the increase in support being enjoyed by the eurosceptic United Kingdom Independenc Party.
Although many in the U.K. would like Cameron to offer an in/out referendum on British membership of the E.U. there is almost no chance that he will. Cameron believes that the U.K. should remain in the E.U., an opinion that is not shared by most Britons. A recent poll indicated that only 30 percent of Britons would vote for British membership of the E.U.
The dilemma that Cameron is faced with is that he is in a coalition government with the Liberal Democrats, who oppose major changes to the U.K.’s relationship with the E.U. The partnership makes it difficult for Cameron to propose serious changes to European policy. It would be a comparatively safe move to promise only what the Conservatives will be offering in 2015, when the next general election is scheduled to take place. An in/out referendum now would not result in the outcome Cameron wants and could weaken the coalition government.
However, some do not think that offering an in/out referendum would result in bad consequences for Conservatives. The eurosceptic Member for the European Parliament Daniel Hannan thinks an in/out referendum would not be that bad:
When the Conservative Party trusts the electorate on the question of the EU, its trust will be reciprocated. Conservatives will start getting the benefit of the doubt on other issues. Tory activists will be optimistic again, the decline in membership will be halted and Right-of-Centre newspapers will recover their enthusiasm. Everything will feel different. You'll see.
As the 2015 election approaches, voters will focus on what Labour is offering. Do people really want to bring back Ed Miliband and Ed Balls – the men who trashed our economy in the first place? Do you feel reassured when you see either man on television?
Unfortunately for Hannan, it doesn’t look like there will be an opportunity to find out if he is right.