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British premier expected to promise in-out EU referendum
British Prime Minister David Cameron has been preparing to address the UK’s relationship with Europe for some time. In advance excerpts of an imminent speech, the premier promises a referendum on EU membership itself.
During the address scheduled for Wednesday, Cameron was expected to say that - if elected for a second term - he would first renegotiate Britain's relationship with Brussels.
The British premier was also expected to promise a simple "in" or "out" referendum on whether the UK should remain within the bloc.
"It is time for the British people to have their say," read advance extracts of the eagerly anticipated speech published in several newspapers. "It is time to settle this European question in British politics."
Cameron is under pressure from the euroskeptic wing of his Conservative Party, which is demanding that he repatriate powers from the EU and, in particular, hold a referendum that gives UK voters the option to vote for an exit. The prime minister himself has said, after winning back concessions from Brussels, he would campaign for Britain to remain in the EU.
"Legislation will be drafted before the next election," the advance text went on, referring to legal changes needed for a referendum to take place after a 2015 general election.
"If a Conservative government is elected we will introduce the enabling legislation immediately and pass it by the end of that year," the text read. "And we will complete this negotiation and hold this referendum within the first half of the next parliament."
Critical political fault line
Cameron was set to describe democratic consent for the EU as "wafer thin," reflecting opinion poll results that indicate a majority would vote to leave the bloc.
Europe remains a fault-line between the Conservatives and their junior coalition partners, the pro-European Liberal Democrats. Party leader and Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg has described Cameron's promise to win back powers from the EU as a "false promise wrapped in a Union Jack."
Opposition Labour Party leader Ed Miliband warned last week that Cameron was "leading us towards the exit door."
The British premier had been due to give a speech in Amsterdam last Friday, but was forced to postpone because of the Algeria hostage crisis.
rc/ccp (AFP, dpa, Reuters)
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