"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 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.' "