Facing a growing revolt from the right-wing of his Tory party over Britain’s relationship with the European Union (EU), Prime Minister David Cameron on Monday hit back at his Eurosceptic colleagues saying they were behaving in a “very, very strange” manner as the U.S. President Barack Obama urged him to “fix” the problem.
Mr. Cameron, speaking in Washington, accused Tory MPs of getting “slightly over-excited” and “throwing in the towel” ahead of his talks with EU leaders to renegotiate the terms of Britain’s continued membership.
“The point I would make to these people is that you shouldn’t give up before a negotiation has started. It seems to be an extraordinary way to go about things... the idea of throwing in the towel before the negotiations even started, I think, is a very very strange opinion,” Mr Cameron said .
Mr. Obama said that it was up to the British people to decide whether they wanted to remain in the EU but reminded them that Britain’s EU membership was an “expression” of its global influence. Mr. Cameron’s remarks came as two senior Cabinet ministers, Defence Secretary Philip Hammond and the Education Secretary Michael Gove, said they would vote for Britain to pull out of the EU if there was a referendum “tomorrow”.
Asked to comment, Mr. Cameron retorted, “Well there isn’t going to be a referendum tomorrow so it’s a hypothetical question.”
Mr. Cameron has promised an “in” or “out” referendum in 2017 if his efforts to negotiate a better deal for Britain fail. But a growing number of Tory MPs, backed by party grandees such as the former Chancellor of the Exchequer Lord Nigel Lawson, are demanding an immediate legislation to pave the way for a referendum.
Seventy party MPs plan to vote for a motion to be brought in the Commons on Wednesday, calling for a referendum-related legislation.