IoD director general Simon Walker tells PM ‘the clock is ticking’ over the timing of the UK’s EU referendum vote, cautioning that a delay until 2017 will result in a poll on the PM’s popularity rather than the key issues.
Simon Walker, the director general of the IoD, has warned David Cameron that waiting until 2017 for the UK’s EU referendum vote will result in a poll based on his own popularity with the electorate rather than on issues of vital importance to the country.
In an article for today’s Telegraph, Walker wrote “…it is almost inevitable that the more time passes before a referendum takes place, the more of Cameron’s political capital will be gobbled up. The referendum will then become a poll on what the public thinks of the party in power, not a verdict on the positives and negatives of being part of the EU.”
The majority victory for the Conservative Party in May’s general election confirmed that Britain will go to the polls over its EU membership by 2017 at the latest, keeping to the prime minister’s pre-election pledge. But, says Walker, waiting until the latest opportunity to set a date for the poll will also have a negative impact on the UK’s ability to renegotiate its membership terms, should the nation opt to remain in the EU.
“There are other reasons why leaving the referendum until 2017 is inappropriate. France has national elections in May and Germany in September of that year. Britain’s proper requirements for reform would struggle to be negotiated effectively so close to those febrile domestic campaigns,” he wrote.
“Britain itself has the Presidency of the European Union in the second half of 2017. It would be absurd for this country to be holding the presidency while conducting a referendum on remaining a member. The captain of a football team cannot credibly be leading his side while publicly mulling over the prospect of imminent departure.”
Walker said that fewer than seven per cent of IoD members currently intend to vote to leave the EU, but added that only 13 per cent of IoD members currently think that the EU offers a viable social model which ‘other parts of the world would do well to emulate.’
“Our members see a referendum as a reasonable way of settling where Britain stands on its relationship with the EU,” he concluded. “But an overly drawn-out campaign, which will move further away from the real issues of our future prosperity and security, and inevitably become uglier the longer it goes on, will not benefit businesses or the voters. Prime Minister, the clock is ticking.”