David Cameron Promises In/Out Referedum on EU

January 23, 2013, Wednesday // 04:23
Bulgaria: David Cameron Promises In/Out Referedum on EU
British Prime Minister, David Cameron delivers a keynote speech on Britain`s relationship with Europe at the Bloomberg offices in London, Britain, 23 January 2013. Photo by EPA/BGNES

British people will be given the opportunity to "have their say" on Europe in an in/out referendum if the Conservatives win the election, Prime Minister David Cameron has pledged in a key address.

Speaking from the Bloomberg headquarters in central London, the prime minister said he wanted to renegotiate the UK's relationship with the EU and then give people the "simple choice" between staying in under those new terms, or leaving the EU.

In Britain today, "public disillusionment with the EU is at an all-time high," Cameron said, citing regulations and directives out of Brussels that many Britons consider onerous and unnecessary.

"Democratic consent for the EU in Britain is now wafer-thin.

"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.

"But the question mark is already there and ignoring it won't make it go away.

"In fact, quite the reverse. Those who refuse to contemplate consulting the British people, would in my view make more likely our eventual exit.

"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.

"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."

If his Conservative Party wins again in an election due in 2015, Cameron said, the new arrangement would be put to voters in an in-or-out referendum by the end of 2017.

The news was welcomed by eurosceptics who have long campaigned for a vote.

During noisy Prime Minister's Questions exchanges in Parliament however David Cameron was accused of "running scared" of the UK Independence Party, whose poll ratings have been rising.

Cameron was due to give the speech on Europe last week but had to postpone its delivery because of the Algerian hostage crisis.

US President Barack Obama last week told Cameron that "the United States values a strong UK in a strong European Union."

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