British MPs to vote on EU referendum

18th October 2011, Comments 0 comments

British lawmakers will vote next week on whether to hold a national referendum on staying in the European Union amid growing fears about the euro crisis, they said Tuesday.

A parliamentary committee ordered that MPs should debate the issue on October 27 after more than 100,000 Britons signed a petition asking for a choice on the country's EU membership.

The parliamentary motion is not binding on Conservative Prime Minister David Cameron, but if it is approved it will put him under pressure to respect the will of lawmakers and go to the public.

Britain last held a referendum on Europe in 1975 when a large majority of voters backed the country's continued membership in what was then the European Economic Community.

The new motion calls for Britain to be given a three-way choice between remaining in the EU, leaving the 27-nation bloc or negotiating a looser relationship "based on trade and co-operation".

"I believe that a referendum along these lines would allow the public to make clear their views about our current membership of the European Union," said junior Conservative lawmaker David Nuttall, who led calls for a vote.

"It is 36 years since we last held a referendum and our relationship with what was then known as the Common Market and the European Union has changed out of all recognition."

Cameron is publicly opposed to a referendum but has expressed a desire to take back some powers from Brussels, while there is a growing eurosceptic groundswell in his centre-right party.

The prime minister's spokesman said on Monday that Britain would not support any increase in funding for the International Monetary Fund that would directly go towards bailing out the debt-ridden eurozone.

But Cameron has previously spoken of Britain's interest in a stable euro as the EU is a major trading partner.

Foreign Secretary William Hague said on Sunday that there was no "immediate prospect" of repatriating powers from the EU and Britain had to ensure the eurozone was stabilised without damaging Britain's interests.

© 2011 AFP

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