‘Put it to the people’: London Mayor Boris Johnson calls for early EU referendum

Reuters/Yves Herman
London Mayor Boris Johnson has urged Prime Minister David Cameron to bring forward the in/out referendum on Britain’s membership of the EU from 2017, saying a quick decision would have a positive impact on both Britain and the EU.

Speaking on a tour of the US, Johnson said he “welcomed” the idea of having the referendum sooner, saying, “Let’s get it done.” He argued that the UK government had failed to get “stuck in” to the problems at the root of the referendum.

The plans laid out by Cameron involve negotiating looser ties with Brussels and holding the referendum before the end of 2017. If the Conservatives win the election it will be the first public vote on UK’s ties to Europe since 1975.

Downing Street has previously dismissed rumors the government is planning to bring the referendum forward, but during the recent G20 Finance Ministers summit in Turkey, Chancellor George Osborne suggested Cameron would be “delighted” if he could renegotiate the terms of Britain’s EU membership earlier.

Johnson said a speedy EU decision would bring positive change to Europe, both socially and economically.

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“I very much welcome the idea of bringing forward the renegotiation and the referendum. Let’s get it done.”

“We should stress that this is something that can be very positive, not just for Britain but for the whole of Europe and indeed for investors in Europe because a reformed Europe will deliver growth and prosperity. Get it done, get the change, get it done, put it to the people.”

A Downing Street source said no plans were in the pipeline to change the date of the referendum, however.

“We have always said we want a referendum by the end of 2017, and there is no secret plan to hold it next year. But both the prime minister and the chancellor have said if they can do it sooner that would be great,” the source said

“We want to get reform agreed, and there are serious negotiations and discussions to be had. There are 28 countries in the EU and we are not going to pretend that can happen overnight.”

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There has been opposition to the referendum from the Labour Party, the Scottish National Party (SNP) and Plaid Cymru Welsh nationalists.

Shadow Chancellor Ed Balls said Labour would “never flirt with exit” from the EU and said that while change was needed, a referendum would be “destabilizing for British business.”

Nationalist politicians in Scotland and Wales pledged on Sunday to stop English voters forcing them out of the European Union.

Plaid Cymru leader Leanne Wood said each individual country in the UK should have its own separate vote on whether Britain should stay or leave the EU, because the population in England is far bigger than that of Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland.

“My position is that the votes in each of the countries should be added up separately and we should only pull out of the EU if all four countries want to do that.

“We have had a lot of talk during the Scottish referendum about the UK being a family of nations. This is such a big decision that all members of the family need to be involved in taking that decision,” Wood told Sky News.