Wed., January 23, 2013 10:24am (EST)

U.K.'s Cameron Floats Idea Of Vote On E.U. Membership; Other Leaders Protest
By Mark Memmott
Updated: 1 year ago

British Prime Minister David Cameron earlier today in London as he spoke about a vote on E.U. membership.
British Prime Minister David Cameron earlier today in London as he spoke about a vote on E.U. membership.
"Britain's prime minister said Wednesday he will offer citizens a vote on whether to leave the European Union if his party wins the next election, prompting warnings from fellow member states about the soundness of such a move," The Associated Press writes.

The wire service adds that:

"Cameron proposed Wednesday that his Conservative Party renegotiate the U.K.'s relationship with the European Union if it wins the next general election, expected in 2015.

" 'Once that new settlement has been negotiated, 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,' Cameron said. 'It will be an in-out referendum.' "

The Financial Times says that "France, Germany and other European countries told David Cameron on Wednesday that the EU could not be treated ' la carte' after the prime minister launched an attempt to renegotiate the U.K.'s future in the union."

The Wall Street Journal writes that "such a referendum would mark the first vote by an existing member on whether to leave since the establishment of the modern-day EU in the early 1990s. ... Most economists believe a messy rupture with the E.U. would damage British trade and its economic prospects. But financial markets Wednesday were largely unmoved by Mr. Cameron's speech, which contained a bounty of reasons why Britons should remain inside the 27-member bloc."

The New York Times sums up the story's political significance this way:

"The speech was a defining moment in Mr. Cameron's political career, reflecting a belief that by wresting some powers back from the European Union, he can win the support of a grudging British public that has long been ambivalent or actively hostile toward the idea of European integration.

" 'We have the character of an island nation independent, forthright, passionate in defense of our sovereignty,' he said. 'We can no more change this sensibility than drain the English Channel.' "

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