Cameron: I’ll get tough in EU talks, make ‘Greater Britain’
LONDON (AP) — British Prime Minister David Cameron vowed Wednesday to get tough in European Union negotiations, crack down on extremism, make Britain a more equal country — and then resign.
In a speech to the governing Conservative Party’s annual conference, Cameron said he would create a “Greater Britain” before leaving office before the 2020 national election.
The road may not be entirely smooth. Cameron leads a party that’s euphoric after an unexpected election victory but bitterly divided over whether Britain’s future lies inside or out of the European Union.
Cameron has promised to hold a referendum on membership of the 28-nation bloc by the end of 2017, and argues that Britain should stay in as long as he can negotiate looser ties. But many in his party are skeptical of the benefits of membership, and the hundreds of thousands of refugees flowing to and through the EU this year have boosted the “exit” side of the Brexit debate.
Cameron assured delegates in Manchester, northern England, that he had “no sentimental attachment” to the European Union and was “only interested in two things: Britain’s prosperity and Britain’s influence.”
“That’s why I’m going to fight hard in this renegotiation — so we can get a better deal and the best of both worlds,” he said.
In May, Cameron’s party defied poll predictions by winning a majority of House of Commons seats, making him the first head of an all-Conservative government in almost two decades.
The party’s poll ratings have surged further since the main opposition Labour Party elected previously obscure left-winger Jeremy Corbyn as leader last month.
Cameron, who turns 49 on Friday, accused Corbyn of having a “Britain-hating ideology,” and aimed to win over Labour centrists with a vision of “one-nation” Conservatism, both patriotic and progressive.
He said the Conservatives were “the party of the fair chance,” and would do more to build new homes, reduce poverty, rehabilitate prisoners and remove discrimination that holds back women, gays and lesbians, ethnic minorities and disabled people.
“You can’t have true opportunity without real equality,” he said.
He also said the government would end “passive tolerance” of extremist ideas and introduce inspections for institutions that offer children religious education, including Christian Sunday schools, Jewish yeshivas and Muslim madrassas.
“If you are teaching intolerance, we will shut you down,” he said
The Conservative conference has given a platform to Cameron’s potential successors, including Treasury chief George Osborne, Home Secretary Theresa May and London Mayor Boris Johnson.
The party faces strong opposition from trade unions and campaigners for the disabled, the poor and others most affected by government spending cuts. Some 60,000 people protested outside the Conservative conference when it opened Sunday, and a few spit and hurled eggs at delegates entering the conference center.