MPs Want Referendum Now; Cameron Says Maybe Later
British Prime Minister David Cameron is running out of room for maneuver.
While the European Union has yet to come up with the truly definitive plan to end the financial crisis, it is lurching successively to greater concentration of power in Brussels. The ability to supervise the budgets of member states and intervene more intrusively is the only way to convince the more solvent and affluent states that they will not be consistently bailing out profligate economies.
Most British citizens believe that the European Union already has too much power. The sentiment is strongest within the ruling Conservative party. 100 Conservative Members of Parliament have written their Prime Minister asking for a referendum on British membership in the European Union. The MPs are seeing their party bleed in the polls to the United Kingdom Independence Party that wants Britain out - and some MPs are considering defection to the UKIP.
Now, there may be a genuine leader in former defense minister Liam Fox, who proposes a referendum on British membership within the European Union - a referendum that has not been held since 1975 on the topic.
Fox argues "For my own part, life outside the EU holds no terror. We have not moved the goalposts. But they have been moved nevertheless. We must now respond."
The Prime Minister is trying to buy time. In an article in the Sunday Telegraph, the newspaper that caters to the Conservative party faithful, David Cameron is willing to mention the R word.
“As we get closer to the end point we will need to consider how best to get the full-hearted support of th British people, whether it is in a general election or a referendum… For me, the two words 'Europe' and 'referendum' can go together."
Cameron, who has learned a thing or two about a referendum from negotiations over a referendum on Scottish independence, warns against an "in or out" referendum.
Britain as a trading nation would want to keep its access to the European continent and a vote to pull out could prove costly. On the other hand, if the British voted to stay in, they would forfeit their bargaining power once and for all. Therefore it would be better advised to have a referendum on less involvement with Europe.
The MPs are not convinced one complained: “Once again, when it comes to Europe, it's always jam tomorrow. But tomorrow may never come.”
Foreign Secretary William Hague came to Cameron's defense in a BBC interview claiming that a referendum was now premature: 'If it [the EU] changes in that way and once we know whether we can get a better relationship with Europe then that is the time to make the case for a referendum or if there is a clear division between the parties to decide in a general election.