Britain’s prime minister has promised a referendum on whether the UK should stay in the European Union or leave if he wins the next election.
EU membership has sparked heated debate in the UK for four decades.
Now with the anti-EU party UKIP making headway David Cameron has promised a straight ‘in or out’ vote.
“Today, public disillusionment with the EU is at an all time high,” Cameron said. “There are several reasons for this. People feel that the EU is heading in a direction that they never signed up to. They resent the interference in our national life by what they see as unnecessary rules and regulation. And they wonder what the point of it all is. That is why I am in favour of a referendum. I believe in confronting this issue, shaping it, leading the debate – not simply hoping a difficult situation will go away.”
Personally, the prime minister wants to stay in after taking back some powers from Brussels – something other EU countries reject. The United States has said it wants Britain to remain a member with a ‘strong voice.’
“We would also have to think carefully too about the impact on our influence at the top table of international affairs. There is no doubt that we are more powerful in Washington, in Beijing, in Delhi, because we are a powerful player inside the European Union. That matters for British jobs, for British influence, for British security. It matters to our ability to get things done in the world.”
He went on: “I know that there will be those who will say that the vision I have outlined will be impossible to achieve; that if we are not comfortable being in the EU after 40 years we never will be. But I refuse to take such a defeatist attitude either for Britain or for Europe because with courage and conviction I believe we can deliver a more flexible, adaptable and open European Union.”
The deputy prime minister Nick Clegg attacked Cameron’s promise saying a refendum would undermine Britain’s fragile economic recovery.
The leader of the junior coalition partner, the Lib Dems, said years of uncertainty is not in the national interest.
David Cameron’s EU speech – full text
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