David Cameron again refused today to reveal what would make him call for the UK to leave the European Union, claiming he was an “optimist” that a successful renegotiation could be achieved.
Speaking in the House of Commons after delivering a statement on the progress of talks with other EU leaders, the Prime Minister admitted “tenacity and patience” would be needed to get reforms.
He said discussions around sovereignty, fairness, immigration and competitiveness were the key areas of any reform package, which would then be put to the public in an in/out referendum before the end of 2017.
Eurosceptic Tory backbencher Sir William Cash welcomed Mr Cameron’s attempts at reform, but added: “Given he has been buffeted by criticism by other European leaders…what would it take for him to recommend voting ‘out’?”
Mr Cameron replied: “I go in as an optimist and I believe we can get a good deal for Britain.”
In his statement to the Commons, which was in an understandably subdued state given the murder of Britons in Tunisia, Mr Cameron said: “Britain cannot support being led into ever closer union or being dragged into a state called Europe. It may be for others but it won’t be for Britain.
He also called for the EU to be “flexible” enough to deal with the needs of those countries both inside and outside the Eurozone.
The summit, which concluded last Friday, saw Mr Cameron begin to set out areas of reform he wanted as part of a renegotiation.
However, a leaked memo suggested the Prime Minister's tactics on re-negotiation are founded on arguing Britain will “ultimately vote for the status quo” at the in-out referendum, because voters will be warned of the "risky" alternatives.
The memo, reported by The Guardian, also claims Mr Cameron is not pushing for a change of the Lisbon treaty before the vote - a revelation that angered Eurosceptics.
Tory backbencher John Redwood, a long-standing critic of Brussels, asked if the Prime Minister agreed that the current “conflict” between the Greek government and the EU showed “Britain was right to seek powers back so that we have under democratic control the things that matter to prosperity and security.”
Mr Cameron said the Greek crisis showed it was possible to have different memberships of the EU – for instance part of the Common Market but not part of the Eurozone.
Steve Baker, the Tory MP chairing the eurosceptic Conservative For Britain group, said he “welcomed the direction of travel” from the Prime Minister when it came to reform.