"We're not happy with every aspect [of the EU]" ... British Prime Minister David Cameron. Photo: AFP
THE British Prime Minister, David Cameron, will set out how he plans to renegotiate Britain's membership of the European Union, and then persuade voters to back his position in a referendum, in a speech in the Netherlands on January 18.
Mr Cameron wants Britain to reclaim unspecified powers over domestic policy from the EU and signalled his support for putting the result to a plebiscite after the 2015 general election, with the government arguing to stay in the EU.
He dismissed as a ''false choice'' calls from members of his Conservative Party for an early vote on leaving the 27-nation bloc altogether.
The Prime Minister chose the Netherlands because it is a ''founding member of the EU'' that is not ''dissimilar'' to Britain, with ''a strong global-trading, outward-looking history,'' his spokesman, Jean-Christophe Gray, told reporters in London.
''The beating heart of Britain is, we know we need to be in Europe, because we are a trading nation,'' Mr Cameron told ITV. ''But we're not happy with every aspect at the moment - there's too much interference. People want that to be fixed, they want more of a say. We shouldn't be frightened to involve the British people in that.''
There is a tradition of British prime ministers going to the continent to make speeches on Europe. Tony Blair went to Warsaw in 2000 to make the case for an expanded EU. Winston Churchill called for a United States of Europe in Zurich in 1946.
Margaret Thatcher set out her European position in a speech in Bruges, Belgium, in 1988. That address is so idolised by Conservatives that one of the pressure groups against further EU integration is named after it - the Bruges Group.
Mr Cameron has been promising his speech for months. On December 10, he joked to journalists that it was a ''tantric approach to policy-making - it'll be even better when it does eventually come''.
The Prime Minister is under pressure from two sides. Many in his party argue that a more hostile approach to Europe would be popular with voters. The Chancellor of the Exchequer, George Osborne, last week raised the stakes by warning that the EU had to change if Britain is to remain a member.
The Tories's Liberal Democrat coalition allies and foreign politicians say Mr Cameron risks damaging the economy and Britain's global influence.
Philip Gordon, the assistant secretary of state for European Affairs in President Barack Obama's administration, last week warned Britain against a referendum, saying Britain staying in the EU is important to US interests.
Gunther Krichbaum, an ally of Chancellor Angela Merkel and the head of Germany's European Affairs committee, weighed in to suggest it was a bad approach to negotiations. ''You cannot create a political future if you are blackmailing other states,'' he told The Guardian newspaper.
Meanwhile, the Business Secretary, Vince Cable, described talk of a referendum as ''deeply unhelpful'' at a time when the government is trying to persuade companies to invest in Britain.