The British Prime Minister David Cameron has promised a referendum on whether the UK should stay in the European Union or leave if he is returned to Downing Street at the next election.
In a long awaited speech, he said his personal preference was to stay in the EU, but with the terms of Britain’s involvement thoroughly re-worked into a looser form of membership.
“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.”
He said it would be a simple “in-out” vote.
Britain’s membership of the EU has been the subject of heated debate for the last four decades.
Cameron’s speech comes as his centre-right Conservatives are foundering in the polls – and less than two months after the anti-EU party UKIP turned in a stellar performance in parliamentary by-elections.