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U.K.'s Cameron Floats Idea Of Vote On E.U. Membership; Other Leaders Protest

Posted: January 23, 2013

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If his Conservative Party prevails in 2015 elections, the prime minister said, he will put the question to the British people: stay or go?

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. Oli Scarff

"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 'à 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.' "

Copyright 2014 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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