By Matthew Barrett
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After backing a European referendum – in March he signed up to the People's Pledge, no less – and spending some time as the most prominent Conservative supporter of an in/out vote, Boris has spent the last few weeks backing away from his position. After being in favour of in/out, Boris rejected such a "simple" choice, and then argued that the referendum should be on Britain's membership of the single market.
His position seems to be that a referendum should be held following negotiations, and the question should ask people whether they want to stay in a single market-only Europe, or leave. On the Andrew Marr Show this morning, the Mayor of London's position seems to have entered the next stage of development. He hasn't fundamentally changed his position, but he now says that in an ideal world, any such referendum would take place before 2015:
"I happen to think, by the way, that the result, I don’t think that [leaving the EU] is necessarily the end of the world … My preferred option is for us to stay in there. … "It can’t [wait]. To a certain extent, this is now driven by the feeling that a lot of people have, that it was 1975 when the people were first put a clear proposition by Europe and it was a long time ago. Lots of other countries had referendums on the succeeding treaties and we’re never had a popular votes since ’75 on the European question. I would like to be able to campaign for the single market and a withdrawal from a lot of the nonsensical policies. … I think it would be a good idea if they did it before 2015, it would be fantastic – but I can’t see them doing it before 2015. But all this will be revealed in a speech that is forthcoming."
The sense of urgency will probably re-endear Boris to some out-ers who would have been concerned by his recent manoeuvres. However people view his stance, we have confirmation that Boris will end 2012 believing we still need a relationship with Europe.