(London) Only the Conservatives can deliver a referendum on Britain’s membership of the European Union, David Cameron will declare today as he launches his party’s campaign for the European and local council elections.
The Prime Minister will seek to counter the growing appeal of Nigel Farage’s UK Independence Party by highlighting his own record of “standing up” to Brussels since coming to office in 2010.
Speaking in the West Midlands, he will underline his promise to Conservative activists that he would not be prepared to lead a government after next year’s general election unless it was committed to an in/out referendum on the EU.
With the Tories trailing in third place behind Ukip and Labour according to the latest poll of voting intentions for next month’s European elections, Mr Cameron will urge voters to judge him on his record as Prime Minister.
“Others talk about acting in the national interest or standing up to Europe. I do it, time and again – often in the teeth of opposition in Brussels and with a backdrop of uncertainty about whether it can really happen at home,” he will say, according to an advance extract of his speech.
“People said I would never veto a European treaty. In 2011 that’s exactly what I did. People said my attempts to cut the European budget would fail. But I secured that cut.
“People said I couldn’t get Britain out of the eurozone bailout scheme which Labour got us into, but I did just that. And now, we’re not liable to pay for any eurozone country that needs a bail-out.
“So I have a track record of delivery – and believe me, whatever it takes, I will deliver this in-out referendum. Labour won’t. Ukip can’t. I will.”
He will say that his commitment to renegotiate the terms of Britain’s EU membership and then put the outcome to the country in an in/out referendum by the end of 2017 was a “fundamental principle” which he would not renege on.
“I would not be Prime Minister of a government unless we could carry out our pledge of an in-out referendum, because the British people deserve their say and I will make sure they get it,” he will say.
The message will be reinforced with a campaign poster showing a referendum ballot box marked “Europe: You Decide” alongside the words: “An In-Out Referendum on Europe. Labour and the Lib Dems won’t. Ukip can’t. We will in 2017.”
A YouGov poll at the weekend put the Conservatives in third place in the Euro-elections, with 19% support, well behind Ukip on 31% and Labour on 28%.
Shadow Cabinet Office minister Michael Dugher said: “David Cameron is obsessing about Ukip rather than the cost-of-living crisis faced by British families.
“Once again, this is weakness not leadership. David Cameron is banging on about Europe, putting party interest before the national interest.
“With things getting harder, the big question at this election is who will best stand up for hard-working families, but David Cameron is in the pocket of the privileged few, in fear of Ukip and incapable of raising living standards for ordinary people.”