LONDON (Reuters) - David Cameron has cooked up a “recipe for confusion” with his plans to reform Britain’s relationship with the European Union, a committee of lawmakers said on Tuesday, criticizing the prime minister for failing to make clear what changes he is seeking.
Cameron plans to renegotiate Britain’s EU ties ahead of a membership referendum by the end of 2017.
In a report published on Tuesday, a committee of lawmakers from Britain’s upper house of parliament said there was too much uncertainty surrounding the plans and the government must rethink the process if it is to be accountable to the public.
The committee said that with the finance minister, foreign secretary, Europe minister and senior government officials all playing significant roles in the renegotiation alongside Cameron, it was not clear whom the EU should be engaging with.
“The ... process is so unclear as to be a recipe for confusion, we don’t know who is in charge within government, who they will be talking to at EU level, or what the timetable for agreement is,” said Timothy Boswell, chairman of the House of Lords EU Committee, which scrutinizes government EU policy.
“We’re also concerned about the lack of transparency. It’s vital that parliament and the public are kept informed, and are not simply presented with a done deal at the end of the process.”
Cameron has said he believes changes to EU treaties will be required to adapt rules in areas such as immigration. But the committee said that as it was not feasible for changes to come into force before Britain’s vote, the government needed to make it clear how it would guarantee any deal was legally binding.
It also urged Cameron, who has already carried out a whirl-wind tour of European capitals to discuss his plans with other EU leaders, to continue engaging with all 27 other member states “regardless of size or perceived influence”.
“Such engagement is vital if there is to be unanimous support for proposed reforms,” its report said.
British media has reported that Cameron plans to hold another round of talks with key European leaders in the autumn to help determine how quickly a deal can be reached. He has previously said he wants to hold the vote before 2017 if he can.
The Independent on Sunday reported he plans to press ahead within the next 12 months, penciling in a June 2016 polling day.
The lawmakers said the referendum should be held as soon as possible in order to minimize uncertainty for financial markets and businesses, and avoid clashing with Britain’s presidency of the EU in the second half of 2017.
“To stage a referendum on the UK’s membership of the EU while it holds the presidency would not only be highly undesirable, but also so difficult as to be practically impossible,” the report said.
Editing by Alison Williams