THE REFERENDUM on whether Britain will remain in the European Union may happen as early as July 2016, with David Cameron signalling that, with good progress made at a Brussels summit, next year will see the issue of the UK’s relationship with the continent conclusively addressed.
Speaking at a press conference to close the two-day EU summit on December 18, Cameron noted
“We’ve made good progress. We are a step closer to agreement on the significant and far-reaching reforms I have proposed.
“It is going to be tough and there is a lot of hard work to do. But I believe 2016 will be the year we achieve something really vital, fundamentally changing the UK’s relationship with the EU and finally addressing the concerns of the British people about our membership.”
Senior policy-makers have suggested that the summit, in which Cameron has sought to craft a different membership package, was a breakthrough in terms of reaching a level of common understanding that has thus far eluded the negotiations.
With a deal hoped to be struck by February, analysts view the mention of 2016 as “vital” as indicative that the conservative government will see an earlier referendum mitigate potential internal party revolts, and get a head-start on concerns that may be much worse in 2017, such as the refugee crisis.
Cameron has pledged a vote before the end of 2017, and, should the referendum occur next year, the debate will soon get underway, with six weeks required for legislation and four months set aside for the campaign.