David Cameron speech: UK and the EU
- 23 January 2013
- From the section UK Politics
How has Prime Minister David Cameron's long-awaited speech on the EU been received? Here is a selection of responses.
Opposition leader Ed Miliband
"Why can't he [David Cameron] say unequivocally that he's for 'Yes' in a referendum? Because he's frightened of the people behind him [Conservative MPs]. The only thing that's changed is that a few months ago, when he said he was against an in/out referendum, is not the situation in Europe, it's the situation in the Tory party.
"Why doesn't he admit it? He's been driven to it, not by the national interest, but he's been dragged to it by his party.
"My position is: 'No, we don't want an in/out referendum.'
"He is going to put Britain through years of uncertainty, and take a huge gamble with our economy. He's running scared of UKIP, he's given in to his party and he can't deliver for Britain."
Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg
"Of course there is the right time and the right place for a referendum.
"In fact it's this coalition government, Liberal Democrats and Conservatives, who've put in law for the first time a guarantee to the British people of the circumstances in which a referendum will take place.
"But we should always be governed by what's in the national interest.
"My view is that years and years of uncertainty because of a protracted, ill-defined renegotiation of our place in Europe is not in the national interest because it hits growth and jobs."
Business Secretary Vince Cable
"My party has got no objection at all to an in/out referendum.
"The issue is the conditions - we don't want to have uncertainty hanging over the country for several years.
"But the prime minister said enough today to make it absolutely clear that he is committed to Britain staying in.
"I am absolutely certain that is what we will finish up doing and that the people that want to put money into this country and create jobs will have that certainty of knowing that the single market - which currently accounts for half of our exports - will still be there."
UKIP leader Nigel Farage
"If UKIP hadn't been there, this speech simply wouldn't have happened. It's by UKIP making the arguments that while we want to trade with Europe and co-operate with Europe, we don't want to be part of a political union, we have helped change British public opinion.
"I think UKIP has changed the political agenda in this country and really today in a way is our proudest achievement to date, but the real work now begins."
Shadow foreign secretary Douglas Alexander
"We all expected some red lines. We all expected him to say: 'This is where I stand.' He didn't actually set out that position. Instead he tried to somehow position himself as the referee rather than what I believe himself to be, a victim of the Conservative Party.
"Of course we need to see change across Europe. Of course there is an agenda for reform that we as the Labour Party would like to see. But the idea that you put a gun to the head of your European partners, that you stand in the departure lounge shouting at 26 other members of the EU as a way to get those changes, doesn't make sense to me."
French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius
"We want the British to be able to bring all their positive characteristics to Europe.
"But you can't do Europe à la carte. I'll take an example which our British friends will understand. Let's imagine Europe is a football club and you join, but once you're in it you can't say let's play rugby."
German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle
"Germany wants the United Kingdom to remain an active and constructive part of the European Union... But cherry picking is not an option."
London Mayor Boris Johnson
"David Cameron is bang on. What most sensible people want is to belong to the single market but to lop off the irritating excrescences of the European Union.
"We now have a chance to get a great new deal for Britain - that will put the UK at the heart of European trade but that will also allow us to think globally. The future of London is to remain the financial and commercial capital of Europe, to have a unique relationship with America - and to build our growing position as the capital of the BRICs and other emerging economies.
"That is a deal that would be in the interests of Britain and of Europe. If it is put to us in a referendum, I have no doubt that the British people would vote for it."
Conservative MP Mark Pritchard
"Credit where it's due: David Cameron is the first British prime minister in nearly four decades to offer the British people a referendum, that is good news. I think it settles the issue of Europe now for the Conservative party... The problems on Europe have now transferred from the Conservative party to Ed Miliband's party.
"The challenge will be whether it is either realistic or achievable to expect our European partners, who want to renegotiate treaties but have a deeper European Union, when we want to see a new treaty and negotiate for a looser European Union."
Former Prime Minister Tony Blair
"The thing that sends a huge stab of anxiety through any of us that believe that Britain's place in the 21st Century has got to be as a key player in the largest political union, the biggest business market in the world, is that we're now putting on the table the prospect of Britain leaving Europe in a referendum in four or five years' time.
"Why would we do that now? We don't know what the rest of Europe is going to propose by way of changes resulting from this euro crisis, we don't know yet the detail of what we're going to argue in Europe."
Former Liberal Democrat leader Sir Menzies Campbell
"This is more about UKIP than it is about the UK.
"The prime minister's efforts to reconcile his own position with that of his Eurosceptic backbenchers leads logically to the position that if he could not get what he wanted out of Europe, he would be willing for the UK to leave.
"This will hardly commend his approach to those in the EU whose co-operation he requires."
Former Liberal Democrat leader Charles Kennedy
"David Cameron's decision to give this speech was both ill-judged and ill-timed.
"The prime minister asserted that there could be no 'more of the same' for the EU - but his speech is exactly that for the divided and confused Tory party thinking on Europe."
Scottish First Minister Alex Salmond
"The Westminster parties have consistently claimed that a referendum on Scotland's independence causes uncertainty.
"It is now clear the persistent undercurrent of Tory Euroscepticism poses the biggest threat to Scotland's position in the EU and has now helped to hole below the waterline the baseless scaremongering of Alistair Darling and the rest of the No campaign."
Welsh First Minister Carwyn Jones
"The inescapable truth is that as far as Wales is concerned, companies from outside of the EU establish a presence in Wales for the prime purpose of accessing the vast European market.
"If Wales and the UK were not in the EU, this prime purpose would disappear and that investment and those jobs would go elsewhere.
"Uncertainty over our membership will create years of instability and marginalisation just at the time when both Wales and the UK need stability, growth and influence."
Former EU commissioner and Labour MP Lord Mandelson
"On the one hand he's saying he wants a new and improved Europe, which I think all of us could subscribe to.
"On the other hand, he's saying that Britain's membership of Europe is a sort-of blank sheet of paper, which has to be completely renegotiated, and if Britain doesn't get what it wants then we're leaving and heading out through the exit door.
"I don't think that is an approach that is going to find a very positive response from our partners in Europe... They do not regard the European Union as a sort-of cafeteria service, in which you bring your own tray and then leave with what you want."
Fiona Hall, leader of the Liberal Democrat MEPs
"Today David Cameron spoke not as prime minister but as a Tory party leader backed into a corner by his outspoken tea-party backbenchers. He promised an in-out referendum on an uncertain renegotiation of the UK's relationship with the EU that leaves more questions than answers and creates a climate of uncertainty for investors.
"Cameron has failed to reassure our European partners over the UK's commitment to push for EU-wide reform rather than unilateral repatriation and cherry-picking. As a result, the UK will lose further influence in Europe as other member states anticipate a 'Brexit' and discount the UK's views altogether."
Conservative MEP Martin Callanan
"David Cameron has set out a positive, practical and deliverable agenda for a more flexible and outward-looking EU. The EU needs fundamental change based on new principles that enable it to compete in a fierce global environment.
"Of course, European federalists will scream that David Cameron's agenda is undeliverable and will undermine the Single Market. This is complete nonsense. The only thing the Prime Minister wants to undermine is the outdated principle that only one-size-fits-all is the way forward for the EU."
Conservative MP Robert Buckland
"The important point for me from this excellent speech was his clear and passionate commitment to Britain's continuing membership of the EU, and that I believe is vitally important for the UK.
"Now the people will have a say... I'm looking forward to a constructive debate in the years ahead, and most importantly to effective negotiation with our European partners to persuade them of the merits of our case."
Green Party leader Natalie Bennett
"There is a huge democratic deficit in [the EU's] functioning, a serious bias towards the interests of neoliberalism and 'the market', and central institutions have been overbuilt. But to achieve those reforms we need to work with fellow EU members, not try to dictate high-handedly to them, as David Cameron has done."
CBI director general John Cridland
"The EU single market is fundamental to Britain's future economic success, but the closer union of the eurozone is not for us.
"The prime minister rightly recognises the benefits of retaining membership of what must be a reformed EU and the CBI will work closely with government to get the best deal for Britain."
British Chambers of Commerce director general John Longworth
"Announcing plans for a referendum on British membership puts the onus on the rest of Europe to take the Prime Minister seriously, as they will now see that he is prepared to walk away from the table.
"[But] the lengthy timescale for negotiation and referendum must be shortened, with the aim of securing a cross-party consensus and the outline of a deal during this Parliament."
Mats Persson, director of think tank Open Europe
"There is a trade-off in his speech: as insurance to his own party and the electorate he's now on a strict timetable, which may or may not coincide with that of the eurozone. If he doesn't get concessions, is he willing to recommend "Out" in a referendum in 2017?
"European partners who feared an imminent dawn raid on Brussels will be relieved. He has set out a plausible and powerful case for EU reform. For this, he should get a fair hearing in national capitals."
Simon Walker, director general of the Institute of Directors
"A future referendum to decide the workings of our relationship is the best way to affirm Britain's participation in a free-market Europe which is competitive and deregulated."
Nikki Sinclaire, MEP for the We Demand a Referendum party
"Currently, politicians are unfortunately playing games with the general public, peddling half and untruths and opinions that do frighten the general public long before a referendum date has even been set.
"One example is that trade depends on membership, but this is simply nonsense. If we left the EU, we would have a free trade agreement, for two reasons. Firstly because the EU certainly can't afford to put at risk their 5 million jobs liked to our trade, and secondly because the Lisbon treaty also obliges the EU to negotiate Free Trade Agreements (FTAs) with a member-state that wishes to withdraw, as well as with states that are not EU members - why did Cameron choose to omit this fact from his speech?"
Matthew Sinclair, chief executive of the TaxPayers' Alliance
"Mr Cameron cannot necessarily afford to wait until 2015 before embarking on this renegotiation: as efforts continue to deal with the ongoing eurozone crisis, there are likely to be considerable changes in the structure and nature of the EU sooner rather than later.
"This will have big implications for the UK and will present the exact opportunity we require to seek a better deal from our continental partners.
"Mr Cameron must also continue to make it clear that he will countenance withdrawal from the European Union if our continental partners do not agree to the better deal he proposes for the UK. If not, he will have surrendered our strongest trump card before even entering the negotiating chamber."
Conservative donor and strategist Lord Ashcroft
"For most voters, including those who will need to vote Conservative for the first time if we are to have any hope of a majority, Europe barely registers on their list of concerns. The principal benefit of our referendum policy is not that it gives our campaign a headline; it is that it allows us to put the issue to rest and move the conversation on to what the voters want to discuss."
Greenpeace executive director John Sauven
"If David Cameron feels that Europe's technology is far too energy-efficient, our water and air too clean, and the whole place overrun with birds, badgers and bees, then he could always try Beijing or Mexico City.
"We would strongly urge him to try living somewhere without strong environmental regulations for a few years before he considers turning the UK back into the dirty man of Europe.
"We would still be swimming in sewage if it wasn't for Europe. There are good and bad things about Europe, but the British people will not want to see the natural environment further threatened by a weakening of environmental legislation."