David Cameron, the British prime minister, has kicked off his two day European tour on Thursday to meet with bloc leaders to push for reforms before Britons head to the polls for a European Union (EU) in-out referendum.
Cameron is expected to meet Mark Rutte, the Netherlands’ prime minister in the Hague for lunch on Thursday and then move on to Paris to meet French president Francois Hollande for dinner.
The British prime minister is then scheduled on Friday to meet with Polish prime minister Ewa Kopacz in Warsaw before flying to Berlin to discuss proposed EU reforms with German Chancellor Angela Merkel.
Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II on Wednesday officially announced a strongly debated European Union (EU) referendum proposal during her speech noting Prime Minister David Cameron’s legislative plan for next year, which was an official starting point for the much awaited renegotiation process.
“My government will renegotiate the United Kingdom’s relationship with the European Union and pursue reform of the European Union for the benefit of all member states,” said the Queen.
On Thursday, the same day the British prime minister's European tour began, the legislation will be introduced to the parliament and the House of Commons will begin debating on the referendum bill, which will be voted on formally on June 9.
Earlier this week a spokesman for Cameron’s cabinet said that, “The prime minister underlined that the British people are not happy with the status quo and believe that the EU needs to change in order to better address their concerns.”
France says Britain leaving EU ‘very risky’
Ahead of Cameron’s visit to Paris, Laurent Fabius, the French foreign minister, stated that the referendum project is very risky and that France prefers a stable 28-nation bloc.
Fabius made it clear that Britain would suffer if it choses to leave the EU.
"He launched this referendum project, it is something very risky. We hope Britain stays in the European Union, nevertheless there are things that need to be improved," said the foreign minister.
Fabius said that he finds “this process quite dangerous” and that “The British population has gotten used to being told: ‘Europe is a bad thing’, and the day they are asked to decide, the risk is that they say Europe is a bad thing.”
Fabius also stressed the seriousness of the decision by by saying that one can’t “join a football club and decide in the middle of the match we are now going to play rugby.”
However, Britain's foreign secretary Philip Hammond doesn’t think the same as Fabius, stating that the bloc must alter current treaties to cater for the needs of the UK.
Hammond - who spoke to BBC radio - said that, "If our partners do not agree with us, do not work with us to deliver that [reform] package, then we rule nothing out."
"The advice we're getting is that we will need treaty change," said Hammond.
The latest surveys in the UK indicate a majority of voters are in favour of staying in the EU, with a recent survey by YouGov showing 45 percent of UK citizens would vote in favour of staying as part of the EU and 36 percent would vote to leave it.
However, the results of such surveys vary widely. Surveys conducted earlier in the year by Opinium showed a majority of UK citizens want to leave the EU.