Cameron signals holding of EU referendum in 2016

Brussels, Dec 18 (IANS) Britain is likely to hold a referendum on leaving the European Union next year, British Prime Minister David Cameron hinted here on Friday, saying that he expected to strike a reform deal with the bloc in February.

“I believe that 2016 will be the year we achieve something really vital, fundamentally changing Britain’s relationship with the EU and finally addressing the concerns of the British people about our membership,” Cameron told a press conference after a two-day summit, Xinhua reported.

The possible timing could mean Britain may decide its EU membership much earlier ahead of the two-year deadline for the referendum.

“A lot of work has been done, what matters is that these changes are legally binding and irreversible, and I believe we can find ways of setting that out, demonstrating that, in the coming months,” he said.

Cameron also expressed the hope that a reform deal with the EU could be clinched at the next summit scheduled for February, which could lead his government push for a “yes’ vote to stay in the EU in the referendum.

He held the first talks with European counterparts in details over the past two days on the four-area demands on the reforms for Brussels, which as he said, to address the concerns of the British people over Britain membership of the EU.

Early in the day, Cameron said there was “a pathway to an agreement” after his some 45-minute speech at Thursday’s dinner. And the EU leaders have agreed to seek ways for a deal in the next summit scheduled for February.

“Obviously, I want a deal in February but I have set a deadline for the referendum as the end of 2017, I always wanted to give myself time to get this right. What matters is the substance in getting it right rather than the timing.”

“I firmly believe… the best future for Britain is a reformed EU,” he said.

In November, Cameron set out reform demands made up of four key objectives, including protecting the single market for Britain and others outside the eurozone; exempting Britain from “ever-closer union” and bolstering national parliaments; enhancing competitiveness in the EU and limiting EU migrants’ benefits in Britain.

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