In a long awaited speech, UK Prime Minister David Cameron has promised an in-out referendum on the country’s membership in the EU should his Conservative Party be returned to power following the next general election. Cameron said that the UK government will attempt to negotiate a new settlement with other European countries before putting the result to a vote by 2017.
In the written version of the speech, the Prime Minister explicitly expressed his preference to remain in the EU but insisted that the institution should reform to ensure competitiveness and flexibility, as well as secure popular support from the British people.
According to Cameron, the UK’s commitment to the European project had always been “more practical than emotional.”
The speech is widely seen as an attempt by the prime minister to navigate between the interests of his increasingly eurosceptic party on the one hand, and other European governments and business interests on the other. Many Conservative parliamentarians expressed their support for Cameron’s European vision following the speech. Opposition figures and other governments were less impressed however. Chuka Umunna, shadow business secretary warned the Cameron would create “five years of uncertainty” for British companies, while Laurent Fabius, French foreign minister promised to “roll out the red carpet” for businesses should the UK leave the EU.