Cable warns Prime Minister: European referendum would not be in the best interests of this country
Business Secretary Vince Cable has warned Prime Minister David Cameron that a referendum on Europe now would not be in the best interests of the country.
Speaking in Eastbourne the day before David Cameron is due to make a long-awaited speech on the future of Britain’s relationship with the European Union, the Lib Dem MP has described it as “a dangerous gamble” for Britain to start renogotiating its powers from Brussels.
He said that the timing of a referendum right now on Britain’s future in Europe was wrong when the economy domestically was in such a state.
Mr Cable said: “A referendum right now would not be in the best interests of the country. It is a distraction.
“That’s not to say there should not be a referendum - Parliament has set out the conditions should there be one - but this is a very, very bad time when we are trying to get out of this economic crisis only to create a massive wave of uncertainty.”
Tomorrow the Prime Minister is expected to take make a key speech by outlining his stance on Britain’s future relationship with the 27-member union - a speech which is sure to prove divisive among the Coalition and across his own party.
Mr Cameron is expected to call for a renegotiation of the UK’s existing relationship with Europe and declare if and when a referendum would be held on Britiain’s future relationship with Brussels.
Mr Cable, who was speaking during a visit to Sussex Downs College in Eastbourne, said that he had no objection to the principle of a referendum, and neither did he have a personal quarrel with the Prime Minister. “The Prime Minister is genuinely committed towards keeping Britain within the European Union,” he said.
“The problem is that you open a whole Pandora’s box around renegotiation. With a referendum at this stage you will create substantial uncertainty.
“One of the big lessons I have learned when talking to businesses every day is that they do not want an additional layer of uncertainty on top of everything else.
“Half of the big multinationals who have established themselves in Britain, such as the car industry, have said that the reason they are based here is that they are confident we are part of the single market.
“If you throw that into doubt then you make it more difficult to keep and attract investment from the US and Asia, who are an important part of our modern economy.”
Mr Cable said he understood the huge frustration with the way the European Union worked and issues with European regulation. This was being sorted, he claimed, through reform and with the support of a number of European countries including Sweden, Denmark, Finland, Ireland, the Netherlands and several Eastern European members. “They want to move the European Union in the direction we want it to,” he insisted.
Asked when there should be a referendum, Mr Cable said that it was not up to him to pick a time, but he did not believe it was in the best interests of this country to hold a referendum on Britain’s future in the European Union in this Parliament.
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Saturday 18 May 2013
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