British prime minister hopes to wrap up negotiations in February and hold vote in the summer.
David Cameron gave his clearest indication yet that he wants the U.K. to stay in the EU in a television interview Sunday, saying “I don’t think [an exit] is the right answer.”
The British prime minister also told the BBC’s Andrew Marr that the result of the In/Out referendum on EU membership, to be held before the end of 2017, was not linked to his own political future, and he would remain in No. 10 Downing Street even if he lost the vote.
Cameron said his priority was to hold a referendum and to “abide by what the British public say.”
Britain’s future in the EU will be on the agenda at a summit of the bloc’s leaders in February. Cameron on Sunday said he hoped to reach a deal at that meeting, with the referendum “to follow,” ideally in the summer. If no deal is struck next month, the referendum date would be delayed.
Cameron said he was making progress in negotiations with other member countries on reforms he wants to see agreed before the referendum.
“It is hard work,” he said. “But the areas that I have identified are the things that drive us up the wall about Europe that we need to deal with. Let’s make sure we are not part of an ‘ever closer union.’ I think we are on the way to getting that fixed. The idea that Europe must add to our competitiveness, not take away from our competitiveness, making sure this isn’t just a single currency club but it is flexible enough for countries like Britain with our own currency. And then dealing with this issue of the abuse of free movement and the pressure of migration from the EU on Britain by amending welfare rules.”
Asked if he was prepared for the possibility of a U.K. exit, Cameron said: “I don’t think that is the right answer … but were that to be the answer we would have to do everything to make that work.”
The prime minister also confirmed that the government was not making contingency plans in case of a vote against his wishes.
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