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Vote On EU: Brits (At Last!) May Go

  • January 24th, 2013
  • Posted by 7thmin

cameron-resize.jpgCOMMENTARY: The British Prime Minister, David Cameron (picture) has foreshadowed an “in or out” referendum on the European Union.


He told a business gathering in London, he would put on the vote before 2018, if he is re-elected to government in 2015, after first moving to renegotiate the terms of Britain’s participation in the EU.

Mr Cameron’s Conservative Party harbours an intractable anti-European lobby; its position reflects more-widespread mental resistance in the island nation to closer affiliation with other European cultures.


Hostility to membership is common within the Labour Party also, one of its long-time leaders, Hugh Gaitskell, once calling it “the end of a thousand years of history” – seen as a bad outcome.

eu-money-ec.jpgMr Cameron insists that he wants his country in the EU, noting the strong economic advantages to trade in goods and services — especially access to continental markets.

However he says that while wanting the single market, the EU is seen as inefficient and spends too much; and with the issue never lying quiet, it should be settled “once and for all”.

The Labour Opposition Leader, Ed Milliband, told parliament the Prime Minister was being “dragged by his party” to the vote, and Mr Cameron would not be able to say for himself, if he’d vote yes or no; the Liberal Democrats’ leader, Nick Clegg, in coalition with the Conservative Party, said the plan would create “years of uncertainty”.


Britain was taken into the then European Community in 1972 by a moderate Conservative Prime Minister, Edward Heath, and the decision was confirmed in the 1975 “in or out” referendum, the “yes” vote getting a two-thirds majority, in a voter turn-out of over 60%.

Less-than-wholehearted participation set in under Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher. Time and again, after a stick-up at negotiations over agriculture or other issue, on the objections of the one member, exasperation at Brussels was palpable. Government leaders remained diplomatically restrained; in the media gallery could be heard the more pragmatic response: “why don’t they just get out of it?”

A much-favoured line on the EU, in the United Kingdom, is that it should be a customs union for free trade, but should not proceed with expansion into more fields of government.


eu-flag-flies.jpgEuropean leaders across the Channel have signaled opposition to the notion of an individual member state choosing favoured aspects of membership, but demanding exemption from other responsibilities.

The German Chancellor, Angela Merkel, said while British claims would be heard, it had to be recognised that other member states also had their preferences, and any outcome would need to be fair to all parties.

The European Commission reiterated the point that membership of the EU was much to Britain’s advantage; the French Foreign Minister, Laurent Fabius, said all players had to accept the rules;  there could be no “Europe a la carte” – it’s a set menu.


The Guardian, Manchester, “David Cameron promises in-out EU referendum – video”, 23.1.13., (24.1.13).

Nick Robinson, “David Cameron faces Europe test”, BBC News, London, 23.1.13., (24.1.13).