Cameron rules out second EU referendum if UK votes to leave

David Cameron

Britain will not hold a second “In-Out” vote on its membership of the European Union if the public opt to leave the bloc at a referendum due by the end of 2017, a senior aide to Prime Minister David Cameron said on Sunday (25 October).

Some in the ‘out’ camp, including Vote Leave campaign director Dominic Cummings, have suggested that if Britain votes to quit the EU it could be used as a bargaining tool to get more concessions from Brussels ahead of another referendum, or a vote on the terms of the exit.

British media have reported that London mayor Boris Johnson, tipped as a future contender for the leadership of Cameron’s Conservatives, is a supporter of the double referendum idea.

“The Prime Minister is clear that is simply not going to happen. From the outset, he has been clear this will be a straightforward in/out choice and that’s exactly what it will be. Leave means leave,” the aide told Reuters in an email briefing.

“It is not credible to suggest that the majority of the British public could vote to leave and then the UK government would ignore the voters and negotiate to remain.”

Cameron has promised to renegotiate Britain’s relationship with the bloc ahead of the vote, but many officials across the EU have expressed irritation that London has yet to spell out specific proposals.

The prime minister’s aide said the EU’s other 27 members would not countenance a second renegotiation with a country that has already decided to leave.

“Trying to muddy the waters as they are and suggest that we can have a second chance if we vote leave suggests that the Leave campaign lacks confidence in its own case and is worried about the risks. Otherwise it would unambiguously advocate a clean exit,” the aide said.

EU membership has long been a controversial issue in Britain, with Eurosceptics arguing that Britain would prosper more outside the bloc.

Public opinion is divided, however. Earlier this week a poll from Ipsos MORI showed British support for staying in the EU has tumbled over the past four months as an influx of migrants into Europe has pushed many voters towards opting for an exit.

The poll found 52% of Britons would vote to stay in the EU, down from a record 61% in June. Support for a British exit rose to 39%, the highest level since 2012, up from 27% in June. That more than halves the “in” lead to 13 percentage points from 34 points in June.

Britain’s governing Conservative Party won an absolute majority in the UK general election on 7 May 2015. With 12 more MPs than the other parties combined, the Conservatives no longer have to rely on a coalition partner.

Prime Minister David Cameron promised to renegotiate the UK's relations with the European Union. The renegotiation will be followed by a referendum by the end of 2017, to decide whether or not the United Kingdom should remain in the EU.

If he achieves the reforms, Cameron will campaign to stay in. Otherwise, the Conservatives might campaign to leave the EU. This decision could have far-reaching consequences for trade, investment and Great Britain's position on the international scene.

Some other European countries are ready to listen to Cameron's concerns on issues such as immigration, and may be prepared to make limited concessions to keep Britain in the bloc.

But EU leaders also have their red lines, and have ruled out changing fundamental EU principles, such as the free movement of workers, and a ban on discriminating between workers from different EU states.

>>Read our LinksDossier: The UK's EU referendum: On the path to Brexit?

  • November: David Cameron to announce his views on EU reform.
  • 17-18 December: EU summit dedicated to possible reforms to accommodate the UK ahead of the referendum.
  • 2016: Likely year for British EU referendum.
  • 2017: Self-imposed end of year deadline for British Prime Minister David Cameron to hold his in/out referendum.

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