Cameron shakes Europe over EU exit vote
David Cameron promises to give Britons the chance to vote on whether to stay in the European Union or leave if he wins the next election in 2015.PT2M3S http://www.canberratimes.com.au/action/externalEmbeddedPlayer?id=d-2d833 620 349 January 24, 2013
LONDON: Britain's Prime Minister, David Cameron, says Britain will hold a referendum on whether to leave the European Union if his party wins the next election.
In a long-awaited speech in central London on Wednesday, he said the terms of Britain's membership of the bloc should be revised and citizens should have a say. He acknowledged public disillusionment with the EU is ''at an all-time high''.
A general election is expected in 2015. Mr Cameron said: ''It will be an in-out referendum.''
In or out … David Cameron.
The possibility of a referendum is expected to rattle business leaders and frustrate other EU member states focused on stemming the eurozone debt crisis. Already, speculation over a vote on leaving the EU has prompted a chorus of concern from around the world, stressing the importance of Britain's presence in the bloc and warning about the economic consequences of a British exit.
Even the US, which normally stays out of disputes among EU states, waded into the debate.
The White House said last week the US President, Barack Obama, told Mr Cameron ''the United States values a strong UK in a strong European Union''.
Reacting to Mr Cameron's speech, the German Foreign Minister, Guido Westerwelle, said ''cherry-picking'' on aspects of EU membership was not an option, the BBC reported.
Many of the critics have accused Mr Cameron of trying an ''a la carte'' approach to membership of the bloc.
He insisted on Wednesday that a ''one-size-fits-all'' approach to the EU was misguided. ''Let us not be misled by the fallacy that a deep and workable single market requires everything to be harmonised, to hanker after some unattainable and infinitely level playing field,'' he said.
''Countries are different. They make different choices. We cannot harmonise everything.''
The speech is a gamble for Mr Cameron. Some in his party want a referendum now, and several cabinet ministers believe Britain should consider leaving the EU. It is not clear whether the prospect of a referendum, in which Mr Cameron will campaign for an ''in'' vote, will satisfy these demands.
The Prime Minister also faces criticism from his Liberal Democrat coalition partners and some world leaders, who warn that promising a referendum risks increasing uncertainty when the country is still recovering from the financial crisis.
Mr Cameron argues that public opinions must be sought because of disillusionment with the EU. Among the reasons, he says, are that people feel that the EU is ''heading in a direction that they never signed up to'' and a resentment over ''interference in our national life''.
''The result is that democratic consent for the EU in Britain is now wafer thin.''
Associated Press; Telegraph, London