STROUD MP Neil Carmichael believes it would be a mistake to hold a referendum on the UK’s membership of the European Union before the next general election in 2015.

The Government has been put under pressure to bring forward a promised in/out referendum following calls at the weekend for an early vote from the prominent backbench Conservative MP Adam Afriyie.

However, Mr Carmichael believes any vote before 2015 would be premature and he has leant his backing to Prime Minister David Cameron who has pledged to hold a referendum in 2017 should the Conservatives win the next general election.

Speaking to the SNJ, Mr Carmichael said: “I do not think we should be holding a referendum before the general election because I think that we need enough time to properly re-assess and renegotiate our relationship with the EU.”

Whilst his Tory colleague Mr Afriyie has been pushing for a vote next October, Mr Carmichael said it would take longer to extract concessions from the EU, which could then be put to the British public.

“We need to make sure that British businesses can prosper in Europe and are able to able to create export opportunities and we need to strip down and strip away unnecessary bureaucracy and make sure it is possible for them to invest in jobs and research and development,” he said.

“I am in favour of Britain’s membership of the EU providing we manage to create an outward-looking Europe that is much more competitive and respectful of the nation-state.”

“We are going to renegotiate, reassess, recalibrate our relationship with the EU and then have a referendum and let the people decide.”

Mr Carmichael also revealed he was currently involved in setting-up a new, independent think-tank called Modern Europe, which would be making the pragmatic case for British membership of a reformed EU.

“It will complement and support the process of renegotiation and will be working closely with businesses, international organisations and crucially other think tanks,” he said.