UK lord warns PM against EU referendum

British Consrvative grandee Lord Heseltine has warned party leader British Prime Minister David Cameron against rushing into an in-out referendum on the European Union membership.

Heseltine said Cameron would be taking a “punt” by offering a national vote before negotiations about the EU’s future shape have started.

The comments by the former Secretary of State came in interviews with The Times and The Financial Time, ahead of an upcoming speech by Cameron on the EU later this month.

Heseltine, who is an advisor to the coalition government on economic growth said, “Mrs Thatcher said ‘Never go into a room unless you know how to get out of it’.”

“To commit to a referendum about a negotiation that hasn’t begun, on a timescale you cannot predict, on an outcome that’s unknown, where Britain’s appeal as an inward investment market would be the centre of the debate, seems to me like an unnecessary gamble,” He added.

The Conservative peer also warned that the coalition’s policy on the 27-nation bloc would “drive away inward investment”.

This comes as British Chancellor George Osborne delivered a frank ultimatum to the EU that it “must change” to avoid Britain pulling out of it in the near future.

In an interview with the German newspaper Die Bild, Osborne became the first senior Government member to raise publicly the prospect of a British withdrawal from the EU.

Meanwhile, Cameron is facing pressure to hold a referendum on Europe at some point during the next Parliament and has been criticised by some members in his own party for not doing more to distance Britain from the EU.

BGH/AMR/HE