Open

Coming up

Don't miss

Replay


LATEST SHOWS

DEBATE

Gaza: A Truce At All Costs?

Read more

AFRICA NEWS

Central African Republic: Brazzaville ceasefire talks deliver fragile deal

Read more

FOCUS

Sluggish tourist season in Crimea

Read more

ENCORE!

Bartabas : Mixing Christ with Spanish music and dancing horses

Read more

IN THE PAPERS

Shifts in the propaganda war waged between Israelis and Palestinians

Read more

IN THE PAPERS

French MPs face quandary in pro-Palestinian rallies

Read more

THE INTERVIEW

Yezid Sayigh, Senior Associate at the Carnegie Middle East Center in Beirut

Read more

#TECH 24

Mind the Gender Gap : getting more women into the tech sector

Read more

INSIDE THE AMERICAS

Bolivian children: heading to work aged 10

Read more

  • Live: France says missing Algerian plane 'probably crashed'

    Read more

  • 51 French nationals aboard missing Algerian plane

    Read more

  • Algerian jet vanishes: 'We should eliminate the missile hypothesis'

    Read more

  • Deadly Israeli strike on UN shelter in Gaza Strip

    Read more

  • Italy’s Nibali cruises to easy victory in 18th stage of Tour de France

    Read more

  • Iraqi parliament elects moderate Kurd as president

    Read more

  • US, European aviation agencies lift travel restrictions to Tel Aviv

    Read more

  • Sudanese Christian woman sentenced to death arrives in Italy

    Read more

  • No end to fighting until Israel ends Gaza blockade, Hamas says

    Read more

  • Two foreign women shot dead in western Afghanistan

    Read more

  • At least 60 killed in attack on prison convoy near Baghdad

    Read more

  • Cycling is ‘winning the war on doping,’ says expert

    Read more

  • Ceasefire agreed for Central African Republic

    Read more

  • Can Jew-kissing-Arab selfie give peace a viral chance?

    Read more

  • Botched Arizona execution takes nearly two hours

    Read more

Europe

UK’s Cameron promises Britons EU referendum

Text by News Wires

Latest update : 2013-01-23

UK Prime Minister David Cameron pledged on Wednesday to offer British citizens a vote on leaving the European Union if his party wins the next election, a move likely to trigger alarm among fellow member states such as France and Germany.

Prime Minister David Cameron promised on Wednesday to give Britons a straight referendum choice on whether to stay in the European Union or leave, provided he wins an election in 2015.

Cameron ended months of speculation by announcing in a speech the plan for a vote sometime between 2015 and 2018, shrugging off warnings that this could imperil Britain’s diplomatic and economic prospects and alienate its allies.

In extracts of the speech released in advance by his office, Cameron said public disillusionment with the EU is at “an all-time high”.

“It is time for the British people to have their say. It is time to settle this European question in British politics,” he said in the extracts, adding that his Conservative party would campaign for the 2015 election promising to renegotiate Britain’s EU membership.

“And when we have negotiated that new settlement, we will give the British people a referendum with a very simple in or out choice to stay in the EU on these new terms; or come out altogether. It will be an in-out referendum.”

Whether Cameron will ever hold the referendum remains as uncertain as the Conservatives’ chances of winning the next election due in 2015.

'BIGGEST GAMBLE OF CAMERON'S PREMIERSHIP'

They trail the opposition Labour party in opinion polls, and the coalition government is pushing through painful public spending cuts to try to reduce Britain’s large budget deficit that are likely to upset voters in the meantime.

Cameron’s promise looks likely to satisfy much of his own party, which has been split on the issue, but may create uncertainty when events could put his preferred option – a looser version of full British membership – out of reach.

The move may also unsettle other EU states, such as France and Germany. European officials have already warned Cameron against treating the bloc as an “a la carte menu” from which he can pick and choose membership terms.

His speech in London is also likely to disappoint the United States, a close ally, which has said it wants Britain to remain inside the EU with “a strong voice”.

Nor is it likely to help heal rifts with his pro-European Liberal Democrat junior coalition partners.

Cameron said he would prefer Britain, the world’s sixth biggest economy, to remain inside the 27-nation EU but he also made clear he believes the EU must be radically reformed.

A new EU must be built upon five principles, he said: competitiveness, flexibility, power flowing back to - not just away from - member states, democratic accountability and fairness.

The euro zone debt crisis is a main reason why Britain must reassess its relationship with the wider EU. “The European Union that emerges from the Eurozone crisis is going to be a very different body,” he said.

"A referendum with a very simple in or out choice"
“It will be transformed perhaps beyond recognition by the measures needed to save the Eurozone. We need to allow some time for that to happen - and help to shape the future of the European Union, so that when the choice comes it will be a real one.”

‘Wafer thin’ consent

Earlier advance extracts, released last Friday when Cameron had to postpone the speech, showed he felt the EU faced three main problems: the debt crisis, competitiveness and faltering public support.

On Wednesday, he will say that democratic consent for the EU in Britain is now "wafer thin", reflecting the results of many opinion polls that have shown a slim majority would vote to leave the bloc, as well as the success of the rival UK Independence Party that favours complete withdrawal.

“Some people say that to point this out is irresponsible, creates uncertainty for business and puts a question mark over Britain’s place in the European Union,” said Cameron. “But the question mark is already there and ignoring it won’t make it go away.”

Avoiding a referendum would make an eventual British exit more likely, not less, he said. This would risk bottling up resentment towards the EU, compounding people’s feeling that “the EU is heading in a direction that they never signed up to”.

“Simply asking the British people to carry on accepting a European settlement over which they have had little choice is a path to ensuring that when the question is finally put - and at some stage it will have to be - it is much more likely that the British people will reject the EU.”

Many Britons resent the EU’s interference in their daily lives and its “unnecessary rules and regulations”, he added.

Cameron’s speech has been marked by long delays, diplomatic rows and the postponement due to the Algerian hostage crisis.

“The Curse of TutanCameron’s Europe speech” was how one political magazine summed up the situation in a headline over a picture of a golden-faced Cameron superimposed on the death mask of ancient Egyptian pharaoh Tutankhamen.

(REUTERS)

Date created : 2013-01-23

  • UNITED KINGDOM

    US voices concern for UK’s EU renegotiation plans

    Read more

  • EUROPEAN UNION

    EU summit ends without budget deal

    Read more

  • EUROPEAN UNION

    UK's Cameron talks tough on EU budget and rebate

    Read more

COMMENT(S)