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PM's EU poll move 'jam tomorrow'
David Cameron has failed to satisfy Conservative demands for a referendum on the European Union after declaring that he was prepared to consider the idea - but not yet.
The Prime Minister was accused of offering "jam tomorrow" with his offer to go to the people once Britain's future relationship with Brussels, in the aftermath of the eurozone crisis and further EU integration, becomes clear.
He insisted that an immediate in/out referendum was not what the public wanted. But, in an article for The Sunday Telegraph, Mr Cameron acknowledged the need to ensure the UK's position within an evolving EU has "the full-hearted support of the British people".
He stressed there would be further opportunities in the coming months and years to win back powers from Brussels and that he wanted to be able to offer voters a "real choice" in any potential referendum. He said he wanted to scrap "whole swathes" of legislation on social issues, working time and home affairs.
"As we get closer to the end point we will need to consider how best to get the full-hearted support of the British people, whether it is in a general election or a referendum," he said.
"As I have said, for me the two words 'Europe' and 'referendum' can go together, particularly if we really are proposing a change in how our country is governed, but let us get the people a real choice first."
He is expected to set out more detail about the possibility of a referendum in the autumn.
Influential eurosceptic backbencher Mark Pritchard said Tory grassroots were "fed up of aluminium guarantees" and insisted there should be a referendum during the current parliament. "Once again, when it comes to Europe, it's always jam tomorrow. But tomorrow may never come," he said.
Nearly 100 Conservative MPs wrote to Mr Cameron recently urging him to make a legal commitment to hold a poll on the UK's relationship with the EU during the next parliament.
Labour said Mr Cameron's positioning on a referendum was a "shambles" and revealed more about his "weakness" in managing his party than in his plans for a plebiscite. Nigel Farage, leader of the UK Independence Party (Ukip), said Britain was no closer to getting a referendum on the EU and told Tory eurosceptics they were "in the wrong party".