Cameron Reschedules Europe Speech for Wednesday

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LONDON -- Prime Minister David Cameron will deliver his postponed address on Britain's future relations with Europe on Wednesday, his office said Monday.

Mr. Cameron had planned to deliver the speech in Amsterdam on Friday but delayed it amid the Algerian hostage crisis, in which at least three Britons were killed. However, Mr. Cameron's office released excerpts suggesting that he had planned to deliver an explicit warning that Britain might leave the European Union unless the bloc changed the way it was run.

Mr. Cameron is under pressure from members of his Conservative Party to promise a referendum on the relationship with Europe, and he has signaled his readiness to hold one, although the precise question to be asked has not been made clear.

The United States has been unusually public in its insistence that Britain, its close ally, remain in the union. Last week, a White House spokesman quoted President Obama as telling Mr. Cameron in a telephone call that "the United States values a strong U.K. in a strong European Union, which makes critical contributions to peace, prosperity and security in Europe and around the world."

That theme resurfaced on Sunday when the American ambassador in London, Louis B. Susman, told Sky News, "We cannot imagine a strong E.U. without a vibrant partner in the U.K."

"That is what we hope will come about, but it is up to the British people to decide what they want," Mr. Susman said, according to the Press Association news agency.

Mr. Cameron's initial choice of Amsterdam as the site reflected a long tradition of using European cities as the platform for British pronouncements on Europe. But a spokesman for Mr. Cameron, speaking in return for anonymity under departmental protocols, said Monday that the speech would be delivered in London and would take into account both European and British perspectives.

"There is a debate going on across the E.U.," the spokesman said. "There is also an active debate going on here in the U.K. The prime minister's speech will be reflecting both those aspects."

According to the excerpts released last week, Mr. Cameron planned to say that there was "a gap between the E.U. and its citizens which has grown dramatically in recent years and which represents a lack of democratic accountability and consent that is -- yes -- felt particularly acutely in Britain."

"If we don't address these challenges, the danger is that Europe will fail and the British people will drift toward the exit. I do not want that to happen. I want the European Union to be a success, and I want a relationship between Britain and the E.U. that keeps us in it."

Liam Fox, a former defense secretary who is regarded as a leading Conservative euroskeptic, said he had been briefed on the content of the address. "If that is the speech that is finally delivered," he said, "a great many of us will think that it's a speech that we've been waiting a long time for any prime minister to deliver."

Foreign Secretary William Hague said Sunday there was a strong case for seeking "fresh consent" about the relationship between the European Union and Britain, which held a referendum approving membership in 1975.

"We want to succeed in the European Union -- we want an outward-looking E.U. to succeed in the world, and for the United Kingdom to succeed in that," he said.

"But we have to recognize that the European Union has changed a lot since the referendum of 1975, and that there have been not only great achievements to the E.U.'s name but some things that have gone badly wrong, such as the euro," Mr. Hague said, referring to the protracted crisis over the bloc's single currency. Britain does not participate in the single currency.


This article originally appeared in The New York Times.


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