Europe Minister David Lidington said that the second half of 2017 would obstruct any plan to hold a referendum over the continued membership of the bloc during the presidency.
“Having a referendum during our presidency would not be something I would describe as the optimum solution,” Lidington told the House of Lords European Union Committee in London on Monday. “It would be easier if it didn’t take place then,” he said, describing such a scenario as “challenging” though not “completely impossible.”
Prime Minister David Cameron began negotiations over Britain’s terms of membership for the EU and promised to show the results of the referendum by the end of 2017.
The two competing campaigns built to enhance a vote to leave, and a campaign to stay in the bloc kicked off on Monday.
Lidington told lawmakers that once Cameron concludes negotiations, further measures will be needed in the UK to set a date for the referendum, prior to the 10-week campaign taking its course.
Ministers have avoided setting a date for the vote so far.