David Cameron today promised an in/out referendum on the UK’s membership of the European Union by the end of 2017 if the Conservatives win the next general election.
In a major speech in London, Mr Cameron said that the Conservative manifesto for the 2015 general election will ask for a mandate to negotiate a “new settlement” for Britain in Europe, which will be put to voters in a referendum within the first half of the five-year Parliament.
But the Prime Minister said he will campaign “with all my heart and soul” for Britain to stay in the European Union when the referendum comes.
And he warned voters that if the UK did decide to leave, it would be “a one-way ticket, not a return”.
DUP MEP Diane Dodds welcomed the speech by the Prime Minister.
“The DUP has long campaigned for the people of the United Kingdom to have their say on our relationship with the EU. Our preference would have been to have a referendum now. However, we welcome this commitment from David Cameron. We hope that this is a commitment he will hold to, rather than renege on like previous ‘cast iron guarantees’ of a referendum on the Lisbon Treaty.
“It is clear that, for we in the UK, membership of the EU of 2013 is no longer in our national interest. As a party we firmly believe that we should have good relations with our European neighbours, but that those relations are not about federalism and ever closer union, but more about co-operation, trade relations and looser ties that do not suffocate our national sovereignty and own Parliament at Westminster.
“The Prime Minister has promised to bring back powers and we will wait and watch to see how successful he is in doing this. We also await a commitment from the Labour Party and Liberal Democrats that such a referendum will go ahead regardless of who holds the keys to Downing Street after the next General Election.
“Our position is clear- Less Europe is good for the UK, good for the governance and democracy of this country and good for Northern Ireland’s businesses and householders. We look forward to a real debate on the European question is the coming months and years, and leading that debate here in Northern Ireland for those of us who are sceptical of the EU of 2013.”