Brits to Vote on Continued EU Membership in June 23 Referendum

After Cameron secures 'special status' for UK in talks with EU, he will now campaign to convince voters to stay in the bloc.

British Prime Minister David Cameron makes a statement to the media outside 10 Downing Street in London on February 20 , 2016 regarding EU negotiations
AFP

REUTERS - Prime Minister David Cameron said on Saturday he would hold a referendum on Britain's membership of the European Union on June 23. 

"I will go to parliament and propose that the British people decide our future in Europe through an in-out referendum on Europe on Thursday the 23rd of June," he said. 

Cameron, speaking outside his Number 10 Downing Street residence, said the cabinet had approved a government position recommending Britain stay in a reformed EU. "My recommendation is clear. I believe that Britain will be safer and stronger and better off in a reformed European Union."

Earlier Cameron hailed the deal he clinched with other European Union leaders at a summit in Brussels as granting Britain special status, and said he would campaign hard now to convince voters to stay in the bloc that Britain joined in 1973.

"I will be campaigning with all my heart and soul to persuade the British people to remain in the reformed European Union," Cameron said after securing the deal that was approved by all the other 27 EU leaders.

"We are stronger, safer and better off inside this reformed European Union," Cameron said. He updated senior ministers at a meeting of the cabinet which began at 1000 GMT and said he would announce the referendum date soon afterwards.

While one of Cameron's closest political allies, Justice Secretary Michael Gove, will campaign to leave the EU, finance minister George Osborne and interior minister Theresa May backed Cameron.

London Mayor Boris Johnson, who has charmed voters with a buffoonish persona that masks fierce ambition to succeed Cameron, has yet to make his position clear.

The legally-binding agreement reached in Brussels granted Britain an explicit exemption from the founding goal of "ever closer union," offered concessions on the welfare rights of migrant workers and safeguards for the City of London.

Though British voters are split over membership, betting odds have moved further in favour of Britain remaining in the EU after Cameron's deal, according to bookmaker Ladbrokes.

A British exit from the EU would rock the Union - already shaken by differences over migration and the future of the euro zone - by ripping away its second-largest economy, one of its top two military powers and by far its richest financial center.

Pro-Europeans warn an exit could also trigger the break-up of the United Kingdom by prompting another Scottish independence vote. The $2.9 trillion British economy would face years of uncertain negotiations over the terms of a divorce.

Opponents of EU membership say Britain would prosper outside what they say is a doomed Germany-dominated bloc that punches way below its weight on the world stage.

The issue of Europe has divided the Conservatives for three decades and played a major part in the downfall of Cameron's two Conservative predecessors, Margaret Thatcher and John Major.

Opinion polls show that a significant number of Britons have yet to make up their mind, though perceptions that the EU has failed to deal with the migrant crisis may be turning some towards a 'Brexit.'

Bookmaker Ladbrokes said however that betting odds indicated there was now a 69 percent chance of Britain remaining in the EU with a 31 percent chance of Britain leaving.