Rival EU camps turn up pressure on UK’s David Cameron
LONDON (Reuters) – European Union supporters and opponents turned up the pressure on British Prime Minister David Cameron on Sunday as a poll showed most Britons wanted a referendum on Britain’s membership of the EU although the number supporting withdrawal had fallen.
Cameron is expected to deliver a major speech this month in which he will set out plans to renegotiate Britain’s position within the 27-member EU, along with the terms of a historic vote on the subject that could help define Britain’s role in international affairs for decades.
Many lawmakers in his own Conservative Party are pressuring him to call a full-fledged referendum on whether Britain should remain in the EU, and growing support for the anti-European party UKIP at the expense of the Conservatives has fuelled their demands.
Meanwhile, pro-European Conservatives and business leaders are also becoming more vocal in trying to stop Cameron stepping back from the bloc, saying a radical downgrade of ties with Britain’s biggest trading partner would drive away investment.
According to a ComRes poll in the Sunday People newspaper, UKIP, which wants Britain to exit the EU and has never won a seat in the Westminster parliament, is on course to push the Conservatives into third place in next year’s elections for the European Parliament.
The survey found 35 per cent of Britons would vote for the opposition Labour Party, 23 per cent for UKIP, and just 22 per cent for the Conservatives. Support for the pro-European Liberal Democrats, the junior partner in Cameron’s coalition government, was down to eight per cent.
The poll also showed that although a clear majority backed having a referendum on whether Britain should remain in the EU, support for such an “in or out” vote had fallen by 5 points to 63 per cent since the last such ComRes survey in October 2011.