Wednesday 12th June 2013 | 19:20
Prime Minister's briefing with the Foreign Press Association
"You mentioned Northern Ireland. There is also a lot of international interest in what’s happening in Scotland. I would like to ask you to what extent the referendum of Scotland would affect – would help or otherwise damage your own vision on the referendum of the European Union?"
"Well I’d see the two issues as separate in that there’s a referendum in Scotland about whether people in Scotland want to remain in the United Kingdom, and then there’ll be a referendum after a renegotiation about whether the people of the United Kingdom want to remain part of the European Union. My approach to these issues is that, when you face a political challenge, the best thing to do is to take it head on and have a plan to deal with it.
Now Scotland elected a nationalist government that believes in separating Scotland from the United Kingdom. They supported – they said they wanted a referendum, so my approach was to say, ‘Well if you want a referendum, let’s have a referendum. Let’s make sure it’s fair, it’s legal, it’s decisive.’ So it’s a single question and the Scots will hold that referendum in September 2014. I dearly hope they will vote to remain part of the United Kingdom. I believe they will. I believe the arguments for keeping the United Kingdom together are very strong.
And then we will go on before the 20 – before the end of 2017 to have that referendum about whether the United Kingdom wants to stay in the European Union. Now of course there’s a process of reform between now and then and I am convinced that we’ll be able to secure proper changes and reform. We need to make the European Union more open, more competitive, more flexible. We need to make sure we have the right deal for Britain within that European Union. But then in the end the people will decide.
I don’t believe that – in the end, that it’s right for – it’s right to try to ignore these questions of nationality, independence, identity. I think it’s right to make your arguments, take them on and then you let the people decide. But that’s the way I want to do things in the United Kingdom. I would never presume to tell people in Spain how to meet these challenges themselves. That’s a matter for the Spanish government and the Spanish Prime Minister."