David Cameron says that he is “hopeful” of an agreement with EU leaders in February that would allow him to hold the UK’s in-out referendum on the EU.
He has also said that he will remain Prime Minister even if the UK voted to leave the EU.
A referendum on EU membership has been promised by the end of 2017.
Not ‘the right answer’
Speaking on Sunday to Andrew Marr, Cameron said he personally did not think leaving the EU was “the right answer” but would ensure “everything necessary to make it work” if the electorate did vote to leave.
Cameron is seeking to reform certain parts of the UK’s relationship with the EU. The main sticking point so far is welfare benefit proposals. Cameron wants to stop certain benefits to EU migrants until they have been a resident for four years. The government has been warned by Sir Jeremy Heywood, Britain’s top civil servant, that the ban may be discriminatory.
Andrew Marr asked Cameron if the government was making plans in the event the UK decides to leave the EU. Cameron said “The civil service is working to help me deliver those things. Now, if we fail to deliver them and we have to take a different stance, then that is a new situation.”
The proposed four year benefit freeze has not been warmly received in Europe, but Cameron told Andrew Marr it was still being proposed until an “equally powerful and meaningful” option was put forward.
The vote could be held just four months after a deal is struck. Cameron said that if an agreement wasn’t reached by February, the vote could be held in September “or later”.
Cameron’s comments come after he announced this week that government ministers would be allowed to campaign for either side of the argument.
It is thought several cabinet ministers are in favour of leaving the EU. Collective cabinet responsibility will not apply to the referendum, which could have seen the Prime Minister having to sack those who disagreed with him.
Cameron travelled to Hungary and Germany last week to have talks on his proposed reforms.