Prime Minister David Cameron said he will campaign for Britain to stay in the European Union if the body agrees to renegotiate terms of membership in areas such as immigration, business regulation, and legislation.
Writing in the Sunday Telegraph newspaper, Cameron set out the main changes he wants to achieve if he is to press for Britons to vote to remain in the EU in a referendum for planned for 2017, as he said voters feared the country may become part of “a United States of Europe.”
People “see decisions being taken far away, rather than by their elected representatives in parliament,” he wrote. “And they worry that European rules have allowed people to claim benefits without ever working here. As a result, democratic consent for Britain’s membership has worn wafer thin.”
With 14 months to go before a general election, Cameron is under pressure both from members of his Conservative Party pushing for more concessions from the EU and and from the growing popularity of the U.K. Independence Party, which campaigns for withdrawal from the EU. UKIP may win the largest share of votes in European Parliament elections this May, according to polling conducted for the Independent newspaper.
Ed Miliband, leader of the U.K. Labour Party, last week ruled out support for a referendum unless the EU requests more powers and said that eventuality is “unlikely.”
Cameron said the requested changes represent “an ambitious agenda for a new EU” and “delivering it will take time and patience.”
The prime minister said he will demand changes including new controls to stop “vast migrations” across Europe when new countries join the bloc, and tighter rules to ensure migrants come to Britain to work, and not to claim welfare.
He will also request a new power for groups of national parliaments to work together to block unwanted European legislation, as well as freeing business from “red tape” and “excessive interference” from Brussels. Cameron also wants British police and courts to be freed from “unnecessary interference” from the European Court of Human Rights.
The concept of “ever closer union” is “not right for Britain,” he said.
“No to a constant flow of power to Brussels,” he wrote. “No to unnecessary interference. And no, it goes without saying, to the euro, to participation in euro zone bailouts or notions such as a European Army.”
A ComRes poll commissioned by the Sunday Mirror and Independent on Sunday newspapers showed UKIP would win 30 percent of the U.K. vote, the largest share, in elections for the European Parliament in May, with Labour gaining 28 percent support and the Tories in third place with 21 percent. The poll was based on the 38 percent of people who said they are “absolutely certain” to vote in those elections, among 2,001 people surveyed online from March 12-13.
Labour’s lead for a general election declined to 35 percent, with support for the Tories unchanged at 32 percent.