Cameron begins whirlwind European tour

The British prime minister David Cameron, has embarked on a two-day tour of four European capitals, warning European leaders that the UK will vote to leave the EU unless reforms to the country's membership are granted.

The recently elected conservative government unveiled a bill to allow for a referendum on Britain's membership of the EU before the end of 2017 during the Queen's Speech yesterday morning. Voters will be asked: "Should the United Kingdom remain a member of the European Union?"

The prime minister met Mark Rutte, his Dutch counterpart, today, and will travel on to Paris, Warsaw and Berlin in an attempt to drum up support for his renegotiation of Britain's membership.

British foreign secretary Philip Hammond has said the UK will vote to leave the EU unless changes to the country's existing membership terms are met, and has hinted that the vote could take place as early as next year, something that will alarm eurosceptics.

Hammond told the BBC the prime minister was confident he would secure the changes he needs. "We have a clear set of requirements," he said. "The prime minister is very clear in dealing with European Union counterparts - that if we are not able to deliver on those big areas of concern that the British people have we will not win the referendum.

"And we expect our European Union partners to engage with us in delivering a package that will enable the British people to decide that they think Britain's future is best delivered inside the European Union," he continued.

It is not clear what the full extent of Cameron's desired reforms are, but they will include tougher rules to prevent EU migrants from claiming benefits, as well as forcing those in employment to wait four years before claiming in-work benefits. Cameron also wants an opt-out from the "ever closer union" declaration, as well as giving national parliaments the option of blocking new legislative proposals, according to the Guardian.

Hammond has said that the UK government had received legal advice that some of the wording of the EU treaties would need to be changed in order to secure the UK's demands. But European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker has refused to entertain the idea.

Such changes would need to be ratified by each one of the EU's 28 member states and could see a wave of referendums triggered across the continent, according to the Daily Telegraph.