The British prime minister has said he will campaign for Britain to stay in a reformed European Union but has been vague about exactly how he plans to renegotiate the terms of membership with European Union partners.
But Britain’s aims have been forced down the European agenda by a summer dominated by the migrants crisis and the situation in the eurozone, leading a few to doubt whether the prime minister will be able to exact sufficient concessions from his European counterparts to achieve meaningful EU reform.
Under pressure from lawmakers who feared the electoral success of the anti-EU UK Independence Party, Cameron in 2013 promised to hold a referendum, though UKIP won just one seat in this year’s parliamentary election and Cameron won the first Conservative outright majority since 1992. He repeated that pledge today, telling the Sun on Sunday: “If we don’t get what I want, I’ve said I’ll rule nothing out”.
“I’m confident I’ve got the right strategy”, Cameron was quoted as saying by the Daily Telegraph.
The generally pro-European Cameron has always been opposed to giving prisoners the vote, and has previously said the idea makes him “physically ill”.
Mr Cameron admitted his demands would never satisfy Eurosceptics such as former environment secretary Owen Paterson.
Asked whether there would be more missions in Syria targeting British jihadists, following the strike which killed Britons Reyaad Khan and Ruhul Amin, Mr Cameron said: ” It’s obviously a last resort.
‘The time to make that decision is when I’ve completed the negotiation, ‘ he said.
On the Trident nuclear deterrent, Mr Cameron said: “The problem with his answer is if you… believe like me that Britain should keep the ultimate insurance policy of an independent nuclear deterrent, you have to accept there are circumstances in which its use would be justified”.
As well as increased recruitment if it is requested, the SAS and other elite forces will be given new equipment and weapons to ensure that they are “properly beefed up”.
The RAF’s fleet of Reaper drones will be more than doubled, to over 20, and upgraded with the very latest technology in the new Protector designation.
Ahead of the conference, Tory party chairman Lord Feldman emailed members suggesting that they should not wear their passes outside the ring of steel surrounding the Manchester Central complex.
“It is obvious that (finance minister) George Osborne is at the moment in pole position… but things can change quite quickly”, said Mr Tim Bale, a professor of political science at Queen Mary University in London.
Mr Cameron yesterday tried to reassure critics on the Tory Right that he has an open mind on the referendum, confirming he will “rule nothing out” if he fails to get a good deal.
But Conservatives attending the conference have been advised by the party not to display their accreditation outside the secure area around the Manchester Central venue in case they come under attack.