British Prime Minister David Cameron has announced his plans to hold an in or out referendum on whether the United Kingdom should remain a part of the European Union, allowing voters their first say on the EU since the 1970’s.
“When we have negotiated that new settlement, we will give the British people a referendum with a very simple in-or-out choice,” Cameron said in a speech in London today. “To stay in the EU on these new terms, or come out altogether. I’m not a British isolationist,” Cameron said. “I never want us to pull up the drawbridge and retreat.”
He also highlighted what he perceives to be the issues surrounding the EU. “As Chancellor Merkel has said – if Europe today accounts for just over 7 per cent of the world’s population produces around 25 per cent of global GDP and has to finance 50 per cent of global social spending, then it’s obvious that it will have to work very hard to maintain its prosperity and way of life.
Third, there is a growing frustration that the EU is seen as something that is done to people rather than acting on their behalf. And this is being intensified by the very solutions required to resolve the economic problems.
People are increasingly frustrated that decisions taken further and further away from them mean their living standards are slashed through enforced austerity or their taxes are used to bail out governments on the other side of the continent.”
Cameron pledged to hold the referendum in 2017 after the next general election, vowing to hold the vote if the Conservatives win a majority at the next election. Critics are already complaining that today’s speech is just hot air as he has effectively blackmailed the electorate by not committing until he is re-elected.
His political rivals have claimed that Cameron’s speech will weaken ties to European business and damage investor confidence into the UK’s role as Europe’s most powerful financial centre.
“We’ve had many great prime ministers; they lead their parties and don’t follow them,” Labour’s business spokesman, Chuka Umunna, told BBC Radio 4. “This will create five years of uncertainty. Global companies looking to locate European headquarters will shy away from the U.K. after this.”
The leadership of the European Union are unlikely to agree to negotiations on returning powers to the UK with EU President Herman Van Rompuy saying last week that, “European interests should always be the most important, the European Union doesn’t just mean taking account of national concerns.”
Leaders from other EU countries say Cameron’s approach is fraught with danger. Austrian Chancellor Werner Faymann said Cameron risks pitting all 26 other EU nations against Britain.
“We need to succeed in moving him,” Faymann told reporters in Strasbourg, France, on Jan. 15th. “It will be important to convince David Cameron that, first, we are a common family and not separate groups, and, second, we need results that perhaps in domestic politics are tougher to explain but that are urgently necessary for the common European endeavour.”
The French also weighed in with criticism. Laurent Fabius, a foreign minister, branded the referendum plans dangerous.
“It risks being dangerous for Britain itself because Britain will be outside of Europe, that will be difficult,” he told France Info radio.”We can’t have Europe a la carte. Imagine the EU was a football club: once you’ve joined up and you’re in this club, you can’t then say you want to play rugby.”
A bad analogy as you can join another team.With all of the dire warnings that a UK exit could prove a disaster it could appear to some that the EU is desperate to stop similar votes from taking place in its other member nations. After all if one wants to leave then there is a good chance that others do as well.
The Pound to Euro exchange rate is currently trading at 1.1916
The Pound to US Dollar exchange rate is currently trading at 1.5874
The Pound to Australian Dollar exchange rate is currently trading at 1.5026
The Euro to US Dollar exchange rate is currently trading at 1.3319
The Euro to Pound exchange rate is currently trading at 0.8391
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