Cameron mulls fresh Brexit threat

Cameron could threaten to walk away from the EU if his demands for reform aren't met. Pictured here at the EU Council in March 2014. [Number 10/Flickr]

British Prime Minister David Cameron will threaten to back the campaign to take the UK out of the EU in a future referendum if his calls for reform are not met, according to Conservative party sources. 

Cameron is actively considering toughening his stance towards Europe, The Times yesterday (24 August) reported. 

He has previously said he wants the UK to remain in a reformed EU but warned other EU leaders in June that the appointment of Jean-Claude Juncker as Commission President could hasten “Brexit”.

A source told the Times, “The shift was almost made public at the time Juncker was appointed, but that timing might have looked like petulance.”

While the timing of the public threat has not yet been agreed, it could come at next month’s Tory Party conference. Cameron has said he wants to stop more powers being transferred to Brussels and cut red tape for businesses.

He has pledged to hold an in/out referendum on the UK’s membership of the EU in 2017 if he is returned as PM in next year’s general election.

Ahead of the May 2015 poll, Cameron finds himself under pressure from the popularity of the UK Independence Party. The Eurosceptic party could poach Tory seats as it builds on its spectacular success in May’s European elections.

The story broke after London mayor Boris Johnson called on Cameron to declare if he was prepared to walk away from the EU.

Johnson, a potential rival for the Tory leadership if Cameron doesn’t secure a majority at the election, said, “ ‘I think we can get there [to a reformed EU]; but if we can't, then we have nothing to be afraid of in going for an alternative future, a Britain open not just to the rest of Europe but to the world.”

The new attitude risks alienating his coalition partner Nick Clegg, the deputy prime minister. Clegg has previously warned that threats of Brexit are no way to negotiate EU reforms.

Clegg warns ‘Brexit’ threat no way to negotiate EU reforms on EurActiv

Clegg warns ‘Brexit’ threat no way to negotiate EU reforms

More on EurActiv »

Cameron's defeat by Juncker

Cameron’s warning that Junker’s appointment could led to Brexit was ignored by other EU leaders who voted 26 to two in favour of the Luxembourger.

That led to widespread criticism of Cameron in the UK and wider EU and to renewed speculation about the UK quitting the Union.

Critics accused the Conservative leader of grandstanding in Europe to placate the Eurosceptic elements of his party.

At the time Cameron told the UK Parliament, “We will fight with all we have to reform the EU.”

Opposition leader David Miliband criticised Cameron’s strategy of threatening Brexit.

He said in the debate, “His combination of threats, insults and disengagement turned out how to be a masterclass in how to alienate your allies [...]The rest of Europe lost patience with his act […] the strategy of threatening exit from the EU was put to the test and failed.”

​EU diplomats struggled to understand Cameron's strategy, which left the UK looking more isolated than at any time since a December 2011 summit.

There Cameron vetoed new fiscal rules for the eurozone, a position only the Czech Republic shared at the time, although it too has now backed the fiscal compact. Other EU leaders got around the British blockade by concluding a separate treaty outside the EU framework.

EU diplomats struggle to understand Cameron's strategy on Juncker on EurActiv

EU diplomats struggle to understand Cameron's strategy on Juncker

More on EurActiv »
  • May 2015: UK general election
  • 2017: Proposed date for UK's referendum on EU membership. 
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Carl Jones's picture

I am a British and I am pro EU, however, the EU should kick the bankrupt UK out of the EU.

I'd also add that both the UK and US were behind the coup in Ukraine and are using it to destroy the EU economy and the trading links with Russia and the rest of the BRICS.

The world has become a very dangerous place...and bankrupts doing dangerous stupid things.

Germany need to call the Anerikans bluff on their blackmailing. They also need to kick the US military out of Germany and other EU mainland countries. NATO has come to the end of its natural life and should be broken up and replaced by an EU military force.

Radar and missile bases in Eastern Europe should be shut down so the US can't carry out a nuclear first strike on Russia...This is now on the top of their policy pile!!

Europe can no longer just sit back passively taking abuse from Anerika and Britain.

Joe Thorpe's picture

Keep taking your pills sunshine, America was pulling out of Europe, the EU has dragged it back by trying to lure Ukraine into its tentacles & creating sandstorm of its own making, we (UK) don't want to be involved but we are dragged in too because the EU has picked a fight with its neighbours

Jay's picture

America's first strike weapon is the ballistic submarine and their are two in your driveway right now. In addition, there is an American Rambo under every rock in your backyard and probably one in the pantry also.

David Barneby's picture

Carl Jones
Well Said ! In fact the US were the prime movers to create a Coup in Ukraine . The US uses the EU to assist .
You may indeed be right that the US is trying to destroy the EU , I believe it is so

Antmatt's picture

Carl you may think the sun shines out of Brussels arse but it was the EU who courted the Ukraine opposition, The EU funded those opposition groups & even printed up their anti-Russian propaganda leaflets. They encouraged a small minority to rise up against a democratically elected government & switch their allegiances to the EU. It was a fatal mistake that has plunged Ukraine into civil war. The EU was the one who was breaking an agreement with Russia & thinking Russia was just going to let them expand Eastwards into its sphere of influence. This is the EU mess not the USA or UK's.

Mike Parr's picture

Moron-con and his Tory-Vermin party always talk about "EU Reform" but there is never ever any detail - not one scintilla of detail.

This begs the question - what do they want to reform. The UK has opposed meaningful Euro banking reform (for example) despite the fact that it spent billions on rescuing some of its basket-case banks. Moving to energy, despite supporting the idea of "energy markets" it is in the process of re-nationalising by stealth its energy (non)-markets (Electricity (non) Market Reform - anybody?).

One can only conclude that when moron-con opens his trap and speaks - he actually means exactly the opposite of what he says. Liar? hypocrite? incompetent? Who knows. Still - you get what you vote for.

David Barneby's picture

Mike Parr
I agree with you that the conservative government under David Cameron have done almost everything wrong from day one . To go into detail about EU reform is ridiculous , the EU needs to closed down and be completely re-thought , or forgotten .

Southron's picture

As any Europhile, I don't want to see the UK go.
However, Britain must understand that it cant have special rules for itself. All member-states are equal - special treatment of some would unravel the fabric of the EU, and to stop that, we will rather see the UK go.

Also, as Mike Parr commented: What exactly is the reform that Cameron wants?
I mean, is it cutting "red tape"? Hell, lets all go, no one is against that!

Antmatt's picture

But that's the whole point Southron, The UK is not in any way equal, Europe could loose half a dozen other members & it wouldn't mean squat but if the UK goes then Europe is in serious trouble. It's one of the big three that pays for the EU project, it doesn't take from the EU at all unlike like the majority of it's members. Since the collapse of the Euro It's had its vetoes overridden & has been completely marginalized by the Eurozone. Britain might as well not even be here & If it continues as is then it will be put in permanent minority pitted against the whim's of the EUROZONE & we see from the Tobin tax just how the Eurozone acts in the Eurozone interests. Britain will have no say or influence as things stand. infact its influence over the last few years in terms of positions within the power corridors Brussels have completely collapsed, even Latvia now has more people in Brussels than Britain. This isn't the UK's fault but the consequences of the collapse of the Euro. So tell me Southron If you were one of the most powerful & richest countries in the world & you are the ones bankrolling the EU project & the other members have marginalized you & who's actions against your advice have plunged the EU into crisis would you then accept being marginalized by the others, would you accept the others constantly attacking you especially when your paying for the privilege. The problem isn't Britain, the problem is the EU died when the Euro collapsed & what we have now is power block led by Germany & a power grab by the federalists who are using the crisis to create the US of E. Because Britain isn't part of the EURO it will always be on outside looking in. The way things stand it's far far better for Britain to leave & be an independent country again than be a bit part player in the Eurozones empire.

Southron's picture

Well, see the issue starts from your first sentence - the fact that the UK feels entitled to "special treatment".
Sure the UK is a net contributer to the EU coffers, but there is much more to the EU than that. After all the EU budget is shy of 150 billion Euros, a litte over 1% of European GDP. Its not that much.

The isolation of the UK is, in many ways, caused by the UK itself, when (namely the current prime minister) decided to go on a "me vs the world" to cater to its internal political needs. Why would any other country, or the EC defer to the UK?
- Cameron launched an ilogical ad hominem crusade against Juncker, who now ows him nothing
- Cameron tried to block the Fiscal Compact again to serve internal politics
- Cameron himself does not seem keen on staying in Europe, why would any other country or the EC negotiate with a country than in two years might not be in Europe?
- There is no clarity on exactly what Britain wants from Europe

devbod's picture

> Cameron launched an ilogical ad hominem crusade
> against Juncker, who now ows him nothing

Cameron opposed Juncker as he is a strong supporter of almost every feature of the EU that the UK wishes to reform. Juncker is an extreme example of the EU's democratic deficit, an unelected official to which elected leaders of nation states must beg for favours.

> Cameron tried to block the Fiscal Compact again
> to serve internal politics

Cameron blocked the fiscal compact as he was left no option. EU institutions are there for the EU, not a subset of it. If EU institutions are allowed to prioritise Euro related issues the non-euro states are disadvantaged. After the summit at which the UK used its veto Sarkozy himself admitted that he would also have vetoed if he had been in the UK's position.

> Cameron himself does not seem keen on staying in
> Europe, why would any other country or the EC negotiate
> with a country than in two years might not be in Europe?

By this logic the EU will never negotiate with any member state that has a serious concern "as they might leave so why bother". It isn't a sensible argument.

The EU parliament wants its own independent income stream and seems set on a financial transaction tax to get it. The stupidity of creating a tax that an internationally mobile corporation can simply avoid by moving transactions to another financial hub seems to pass them by. But it is the UK that has by far the biggest banking industry in europe so why worry about the damage to the industry or the resultant grossly unequal distribution of funding among nation states?

The UK doesn't expect special treatment, its already getting it.