Prime Minister David Cameron said he will set out his plans to renegotiate the U.K.’s membership of the European Union soon and that he’ll be arguing for Britain to stay in.
The prime minister’s team of advisers meets this afternoon to decide whether he should make a keynote speech on the subject before or after Christmas. His office has been saying such a speech is imminent since September.
“This is a tantric approach to policy-making,” Cameron joked to journalists at a lunch in London today. “It’ll be even better when it does eventually come.”
Cameron denied that his support for staying in the 27-member bloc put him on a collision course with many within his own Conservative Party. He said he’d aim to renegotiate membership and then put the results to a referendum.
“I think the settled will of the Conservative Party is absolutely in tune with the settled will of the country,” Cameron said. “We know in our heads we need to be part of this organization because we are a trading nation, but we know in our hearts we would like the relationship to work better.”
The prime minister said there was a need for “tactical patience” because of the continued sovereign debt crisis in the euro area. “Over the coming years there’s going to be a big opportunity for a fresh settlement,” he said.
Britain’s relationship with the EU has been the subject of two record-breaking rebellions within the Conservatives during Cameron’s time in power. On Oct. 31, the premier suffered his first House of Commons defeat after 53 of his lawmakers defied him to vote for a real-terms cut in the EU budget, rather than the freeze he’d said he was seeking.
That was their second-largest revolt. The largest was a year earlier, when 81 of them voted for a referendum on taking the U.K. out of the EU.
Cameron denied he’d have to take on his own side over Europe.
“I’m not remotely going to confront anybody,” he said. “There are traditions in every political party in Britain in having members who want to leave the European Union.”
The prime minister also said agreement on a multi-year EU budget can be achieved after heads of government failed to get an accord at a summit last month.
“If the commission and the presidency act on the instructions that another multi-billion cut needs to be made to their proposals, we could get to a deal which would be acceptable to the House of Commons,” he said. “Others need a deal more than we do.”
Cameron refused to compromise on the annual budget rebate the U.K. gets from the EU. “Our rebate is forever,” he said. “Everyone else’s rebate needs to be renegotiated each time.”