David Cameron: A referendum now would be "rash" and "premature"
By Matthew Barrett
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Ahead of the Commons vote (which Number 10 claims will attract 85 votes for a referendum), David Cameron has written for the London Evening Standard this afternoon, setting out his reasons for opposing a referendum on our relationship with the European Union.
Firstly, the Prime Minister focuses on the national economic picture, urging a "single-minded" drive for growth:
"We need to be utterly single-minded about meeting the great challenges that face our country today - getting on top of our debts and getting our economy to grow. And that single-mindedness should apply to the subject we're debating in the Commons today: Europe. We need the European Union to contribute to economic growth, not hold it back. That means tackling the crisis in the euro zone that is having a chilling effect on our economy."
Mr Cameron then contrasts that drive for economic growth with the consequences of leaving the EU:
"Of course I share people's frustrations about how the EU works. I'm driven as mad by the bureaucracy as anyone else. But we cannot ignore our trade figures - 50 per cent of that trade is with Europe. I visit countless small businesses whose livelihoods depend on exports to the continent. For their sakes - for all our sakes - it's no use just saying 'Europe's not working for us' and pulling out; single-mindedness means recognising that our membership of the EU gives us a seat at the table at which the rules of that market are made, and we must make those rules work for us. "
"We're in the middle of dealing with a crisis in the euro zone - a crisis that if left to escalate would have a major impact on our economy. If you're putting out the flames on a burning building you need to focus on the job, rather than give up and start a whole new project. You deal with the emergency at hand. That's what we need to do today."
Then, Mr Cameron claims:
"There's a danger that by raising the prospect of an in/out referendum, we miss the real opportunity to further our national interest".
He continues with the theme of getting "the best deal" - repatriations of power - which, the Prime Minister says, would be unachievable if a referendum were to take place. (You can listen to George Eustice MP say there is a sense that the government "don't have any serious intentions of sorting the European Union out"):
"Many of us have been waiting for a generation for the chance to get the best deal for Britain in Europe. Now that fundamental questions are being asked about the future of the euro zone, I believe that the opportunity to do that is coming. Put frankly, it would not be in our national interest to act rashly and prematurely, achieve nothing and blow this chance to negotiate a better deal for our country."
The Prime Minister ends on a very curious point - that to three-line whip Parliament to vote against restoring its sovereignty is, in fact, to respect its sovereignty...
"And here's why I have made the decision to whip Conservative MPs to vote with the Government: this issue matters and Parliament matters. The relationship between Britain and Europe isn't some marginal issue. And those of us who believe in the sovereignty of Parliament surely can't argue that some votes don't count."
> On ConHome today:
- ToryDiary: 64% of Tory members don't believe that Cameron wants to change UK-EU relationship
- David Nuttall MP: 84% of us have never had a chance to vote on EU membership. Let's change that.
- Nick Boles MP: Conservatives need to win an election before we can get the renegotiation we want
- Invictus: There is no prospect of holding the Conservative Party together without the serious prospect of EU renegotiation
- MPsETC: Ahead of this evening's debate, Tory MPs rehearse the arguments for and against a referendum