British PM rejects talk of EU treaty change referendum

5th December 2011, Comments 0 comments

Prime Minister David Cameron moved Monday to quash speculation that Britain would hold a referendum on proposed changes to EU treaties, rejecting calls from his Conservative party's right wing.

He was speaking after France and Germany said they wanted a new treaty by March with tougher budgetary rules to deal with the eurozone debt crisis, governing all 27 EU members or just the 17 members of the single currency.

Under legislation passed last year, non-eurozone member Britain must hold a referendum on changes in the European Union if they involve a significant transfer of power from London to Brussels.

"If there is a treaty at the level of 27, and if that passed powers from Britain to Brussels, there would be a referendum," Cameron told reporters.

But he added: "As prime minister I am not intending to pass any powers from Britain to Brussels, so I don't think the issue will arise."

Cameron's comments are likely to reassure European leaders concerned with the delaying effect of any referendum, but will anger eurosceptics within his Conservative party who have long been pressing for a vote on EU membership.

On Sunday, Work and Pensions Minister Iain Duncan Smith, a leading Conservative eurosceptic, suggested that the proposed treaty overhaul would require a referendum in Britain.

"The prime minister has always been clear, if there are substantial changes that affect Britain's position, then he would go for a referendum," he told Sky News television.

The issue also threatens to cause tensions with the Conservative's junior coalition partners, the pro-European Liberal Democrats, with Lib Dem Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg on Sunday insisting no vote was necessary.

© 2011 AFP

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