GLASGOW, Scotland (Reuters) – Prime Minister David Cameron will not achieve more than “synthetic” renegotiation of Britain’s relationship with Europe, the leader of junior coalition partner the Liberal Democrats said on Monday.
Under pressure from eurosceptic members of his own party and the rise of the anti-EU UK Independence Party, Cameron has pledged to reshape Britain’s ties with Europe ahead of a referendum on its membership in 2017 if his Conservatives win power in an election next year.
Liberal Democrat leader and Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg wants a referendum on Britain’s membership of Europe, but only if there is a further transfer of powers to Brussels. The coalition government has already passed this trigger into law.
“The Conservatives have decided for their own internal reasons to pluck out this arbitrary date on the back of what I predict will be a largely synthetic renegotiation of the terms of Britain’s membership which won’t satisfy their backbenchers,” Clegg told BBC radio from his party’s annual conference.
On Monday, the Financial Times newspaper reported that senior Liberal Democrats were willing to change their position on a referendum in return for promises on constitutional reform should they be in coalition talks again following May’s vote.
“What the backbenchers want in the Conservative Party is not deliverable in Europe, and what is deliverable for the backbenchers is not acceptable to Europe. That is what they are committing to,” Clegg said.
“I can’t reasonably be expected to endorse a strategy which I don’t think makes either much sense in practice and confounds and contradicts what we have solemnly legislated on.”