David Cameron's pledge for EU referendum welcomed by MPs Austin Mitchell and Martin Vickers
Local MPs have welcomed the Prime Minister’s pledge to let the British people “have their say” through an in/out referendum on the UK’s membership of the European Union.
Austin Mitchell and Martin Vickers cast aside party differences to support the move, although both called for the referendum to be held sooner than 2017.
During a keynote speech in London, David Cameron said he wanted to renegotiate the UK’s relationship with the EU then give people the “simple choice” between remaining a member under those terms, or quitting.
Cleethorpes MP Martin Vickers hailed the announcement as “great news”.
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He said: “For someone very much on the Eurosceptic side of the argument, I’d like a referendum now, but in the real world this is the best we’re going to get, and it’s left Labour floundering.
“I fully support what the Prime Minister is trying to achieve, which is a better deal for the UK.
“I of course would take a lot of convincing to change my position: I voted ‘no’ 38 years ago and I’m still of the view we could make a better fist as an independent nation trading with the whole world.”
Great Grimsby MP Austin Mitchell also welcomed the prospect of a referendum but branded it “a bit of a con”, arguing it would be held “too late”.
He said: “The idea of renegotiations followed by a referendum is what Harold Wilson did in 1975. Like then, I doubt David Cameron is going to get concessions, so it would be better to have a referendum now to give the Prime Minister the strength of the people behind him.
“I’d prefer a looser association, but if he can’t get that, and I doubt he will, then we’d be better off out of Europe.”
Mr Mitchell’s position is at odds with his party, which does not support a referendum. During heated exchanges in the House of Commons, Labour leader Ed Miliband said Mr Cameron was “going to put Britain through years of uncertainty, and take a huge gamble with our economy”.
But Mr Mitchell said if his party leader believed that, “then logically we should get the referendum over with sooner rather than later”.
In an earlier tweet, Mr Mitchell had written: “Cameron has grabbed the best position on EU referendum: renegotiate then vote. Won’t work but wrong foots us.”
The Prime Minister pledged to hold a referendum early in the next Parliament, assuming the Conservatives win the 2015 general election.
In a long-awaited speech, Mr Cameron said if he secured a new relationship he was happy with, then he would campaign “heart and soul” to stay within the EU.
“It is time for the British people to have their say,” he said. “It is time to settle this European question in British politics. I say to the British people: this will be your decision.”