Cameron says Britain has won allies on EU reform

MANCHESTER: Britain has won allies in Europe in its battle to win back powers from Brussels by taking a strong stance on the issue, Prime Minister David Cameron said on Wednesday.

In his keynote speech to his Conservative Party’s annual conference, Cameron dismissed criticisms that he had isolated Britain from its partners in the European Union.

Cameron has promised to renegotiate Britain’s relationship with the EU and put the new terms to an in-out referendum in 2017 if he is re-elected in 2015.

“People say a lot of things about Europe: ‘You’ll never be able to veto an EU treaty, you’ll never cut the EU budget and if you did any of these things you’d have absolutely no allies in Europe,” the British premier told delegates in Manchester, northwest England.

“Well we proved them wrong. I vetoed that treaty, I got Britain out of the EU bailout scheme and yes I cut that budget,” he said.

“And in doing all this we haven’t lost respect, we have won allies to get powers back from Europe.

“And that is what we will do, and at the end of it, yes, we will give the British people their say in a referendum.

“That is our pledge, it will be your choice, in or out.”

Cameron angered other European leaders when he torpedoed a fiscal pact aimed at tackling the eurozone crisis in late 2011 but won support for efforts to cut the EU budget this year.

He has held talks with German Chancellor Angela Merkel and other northern European leaders in a bid to win support for his plan for EU reforms, which he has yet to set out in detail.

The Conservatives face pressure on the right from the anti-EU UK Independence Party, reopening decades-old rifts within the Tories on Europe that date back to the days of Margaret Thatcher.

The Liberal Democrats, the junior partners in Britain’s coalition government, said at their conference last month that they would campaign to stay in the EU.