The Telegraph reports:
In a landmark speech, the Prime Minister said it is “time for the British people to have their say” amid growing public discontent with the power of Brussels.
Mr Cameron pledged an in-out referendum in the first half of the next parliament as democratic consent for membership is currently “wafter thin”.
“It is time to settle this European question in British politics,” he said. “I say to the British people: this will be your decision.”
Long overdue. It is cunning to time it for 2017, as it puts the acid on Labour and the Lib Dems. If they don’t commit to a referendum, they’ll suffer at the ballot box. People want to have a say – even if it is a vote to stay. Ed Miliband has said he won’t support a poll. I think he may come to regret that decision.
His decision to hold a poll was greeted with relief and praise from a wide range of Conservative MPs, but the reception across the Channel has already proved hostile.
A French minister branded the promise of a referendum “dangerous” and a former senior German politician described the possibility of Britain’s exit as a “veritable disaster”.
It would be, for the EU. That is why the EU has to reform. It is an undemocratic institution with almost all power with appointed Commissioners. It needs to focus more on free trade and economic prosperity, rather than regulating so many aspects of European life. If it does not agree to changes, then I think the UK will vote to leave.
The Prime Minister promised that he will personally fight for Britain to stay in the EU, after re-negotiating a better deal and clawing back some powers from Brussels.
He also went further than calling simply for the UK to have a new relationship with the EU. Setting out a wider vision for reform, he made a pitch to other leaders for a more “flexible, adaptable and open” relationship between all members, not just Britain.
“Far from unravelling the EU, this will in fact bind its members more closely because such flexible, willing cooperation is a much stronger glue than compulsion from the centre,” he said.
The full speech is here.