Saturday, 26th January 2013
EU future on knife-edge, says poll
Britain’s future in the European Union would rest on a knife-edge if a referendum was held immediately, according to a poll.
According to research carried out for The Times, 40% of voters back an UK exit while 37% want to keep ties with Brussels and 23% do not know.
The Populus survey would translate to a 53-47 vote in favour of leaving after other factors, such as likelihood to vote, were taken into account, according to the newspaper.
Prime Minister David Cameron has insisted he wants Britain to remain within the EU, although under a renegotiated settlement.
Meeting fellow EU leaders for the first time since announcing his plan to stage an in/out referendum on UK membership, he insisted Britain was not “turning our backs on Europe”.
But he told them Europe was being “out-competed, out-invested, out-innovated” and must be transformed into an engine for growth.
Attending the World Economic Forum yesterday in Davos, Switzerland, Mr Cameron discussed the proposals in a 15-minute meeting with German chancellor Angela Merkel, who has indicated she is open to a “fair compromise” with Britain.
Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg said he is “still none the wiser about exactly what this great re-negotiation means”.
In an interview with The House magazine, he said: “It was a well-crafted speech and obviously very well delivered. But in terms of the content, look, the Conservative Party will obviously ride away with headlines about the referendum today. My own view is that it will be a tactical victory today for a strategic mistake tomorrow.”
Meanwhile, Labour leader Ed Miliband sought to clarify his own position on Europe, after appearing to rule out an in/out referendum in the House of Commons.
He said: “I am being clear. I do not think it makes sense, now, to commit to an in/out referendum years ahead.
“And the reason why it does not make sense is clear from what the priority of the British people is. Their priority is jobs and growth and living standards and I’ve got to say what I think the right priority is and I do not believe now it makes sense to commit to an in/out referendum.”
In an interview with CNN, Mr Cameron insisted the Government was not planning to “storm off” if its calls for reform were not met.
“We’re not putting a list of demands on the table and saying we’ll storm off if we don’t get them,” he said.
“What we’re saying is we should in Europe have changes that will benefit all of the countries of the European Union, but which at the same time will, I think, make Britain more comfortable with her place in the European Union.”
The director general of the World Trade Organisation, Pascal Lamy, said it was unclear whether leaving the EU would damage Britain’s trade with Europe.
Mr Lamy told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “Whether a change in the relationship between the UK and Europe would change the trade relationship remains to be seen.
“I’m not saying I don’t think so, but I know countries - like Norway or Switzerland - who are not members of the EU and whose trade relationship with the EU is very open.
“I am not saying it won’t, and as always the devil is in the detail. What would be the consequences of this in trade remains to be seen, but we have examples of countries who are not members of the EU and whose trade with the EU is open - maybe not as open as if you are a member of the EU, but open.”
The vice-president of the European Commission, Viviane Reding, said that exit would remove Britain’s ability to attempt to block proposed EU regulations which it opposes, such as her plan for quotas for women in boardrooms.
“The Brits could try to do it because they were sitting around the table,” Ms Reding told Today. “If they weren’t sat around the table any more, even trying wouldn’t be in the possibilities.”