Cameron invited to pitch EU reforms to European Parliament

© Vincent Kessler
Prime Minister David Cameron has been invited to address the European Parliament to set out his plans for renegotiating Britain’s membership with the EU.

Former Belgian Prime Minister Guy Verhofstadt asked EU Parliament President Martin Schulz to invite Cameron to address a plenary session in Strasbourg in October or November.

Verhofstadt criticized the PM for saying the EU isn’t democratic enough while at the same time holding discussions about the future of the union behind closed doors.

Cameron has also faced calls within his own party to set out a definitive list of reform demands from Euroskeptic politicians.

Verhofstadt sent an email to Shulz, in which he set out his reasons for inviting the British prime minister to address the EU Parliament.

In the email, which has been seen by POLITICO, he wrote: “The resolution of the UK problem concerning the current treaties and the danger of Brexit are still significant … Yet nowhere is a public and transparent debate being held.

David Cameron has often accused the EU of a democratic deficit. It would therefore be very strange for him to turn down an invitation to openly discuss his proposals,” he added.

A source described the letter as a “courteous invitation, not a summons.

A spokesman for the prime minister said: “Since the election the PM has spoken with the 27 other EU leaders, as well as senior figures from the European Parliament and other institutions, about his plans for renegotiation. Discussions will continue over the coming months and any invitation will be dealt with in the usual way.”

British diplomats are currently in negotiations with senior EU officials and lawyers to rewrite Britain’s relationship with the union.

In a separate statement, Verhofstadt said he was “delighted” Cameron had been invited to the European Parliament.

I hope David Cameron seizes this opportunity and will transparently outline his demands for a renegotiation of the UK's membership, in what is Europe’s democratically elected chamber. Certainly there is nothing for David Cameron to be afraid of,” he said.

This renegotiation is an issue not only of concern to the UK citizens, who will have a vote in a forthcoming referendum, but an issue that concerns the establishment of a new relationship between the Union and one of its members. This is of concern to all the Union’s citizens.”

Cameron has promised to hold a referendum on Britain’s membership of the EU before the end of 2017.

The PM accepted advice from the Electoral Commission to change the wording of the referendum question earlier this week to avoid favoring the pro-EU camp.

Downing Street accepted advice from the Electoral Commission to ditch questions that involve ‘Yes’ or ‘No’ and instead ask: “Should the United Kingdom remain a member of the European Union or leave the European Union?

The answers will be: “Remain a member of the European Union” or “Leave the European Union.”

The Electoral Commission said its research had found the government’s preferred question – “should the UK remain a member of the European Union?” – could give an advantage to campaigners wanting the UK to stay in the EU.