London Mayor Boris Johnson has urged Prime Minister David Cameron to bring forward the in/out referendum on Britain’s membership of the EU from 2017, saying a quick decision would have a positive impact on both Britain and the EU.
Speaking on a tour of
the US, Johnson said he “welcomed” the idea of having
the referendum sooner, saying, “Let’s get it done.” He
argued that the UK government had failed to get “stuck
in” to the problems at the root of the referendum.
The plans laid out by Cameron involve negotiating looser ties
with Brussels and holding the referendum before the end of 2017.
If the Conservatives win the election it will be the first public
vote on UK’s ties to Europe since 1975.
Downing Street has previously dismissed rumors the government is
planning to bring the referendum forward, but during the recent
G20 Finance Ministers summit in Turkey, Chancellor George Osborne
suggested Cameron would be “delighted” if he could
renegotiate the terms of Britain’s EU membership earlier.
Johnson said a speedy EU decision would bring positive change to
Europe, both socially and economically.
“I very much welcome the idea of bringing forward the
renegotiation and the referendum. Let’s get it done.”
“We should stress that this is something that can be very
positive, not just for Britain but for the whole of Europe and
indeed for investors in Europe because a reformed Europe will
deliver growth and prosperity. Get it done, get the change, get
it done, put it to the people.”
A Downing Street source said no plans were in the pipeline to
change the date of the referendum, however.
“We have always said we want a referendum by the end of 2017,
and there is no secret plan to hold it next year. But both the
prime minister and the chancellor have said if they can do it
sooner that would be great,” the source said
“We want to get reform agreed, and there are serious
negotiations and discussions to be had. There are 28 countries in
the EU and we are not going to pretend that can happen
There has been opposition to the referendum from the Labour
Party, the Scottish National Party (SNP) and Plaid Cymru Welsh
Shadow Chancellor Ed Balls said Labour would “never flirt
with exit” from the EU and said that while change was
needed, a referendum would be “destabilizing for British
Nationalist politicians in Scotland and Wales pledged on Sunday
to stop English voters forcing them out of the European Union.
Plaid Cymru leader Leanne Wood said each individual country in
the UK should have its own separate vote on whether Britain
should stay or leave the EU, because the population in England is
far bigger than that of Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland.
“My position is that the votes in each of the countries
should be added up separately and we should only pull out of the
EU if all four countries want to do that.
“We have had a lot of talk during the Scottish referendum
about the UK being a family of nations. This is such a big
decision that all members of the family need to be involved in
taking that decision,” Wood told Sky News.