Jan. 23 - David Cameron promised to give Britons the chance to vote on whether to stay in the European Union or leave if he wins the next election in 2015, shrugging off warnings that this could imperil Britain's diplomatic and economic prospects and alienate its allies. Hayley Platt reports.
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It was a much anticipated speech from Britain's Prime Minister.
And to the surprise of some David Cameron delivered a controversial promise.
(SOUNDBITE) (English) BRITISH PRIME MINISTER DAVID CAMERON, SAYING:
"We will give the British people a referendum with a very simple in or out choice to stay in the European Union on these new terms; or come out altogether. It will be an in-out referendum."
It'll take place within five years, assuming his party wins the next election in 2015.
He said he made the decision because euro-scepticism is at "an all-time high"
But many - particularly business leaders - are dismayed at the prospect of an exit.
(SOUNDBITE) (English) LAWYER, GORDON HARRIS, SAYING:
"It is the most misconceived and frankly facile abdication of responsibility by a prime minister you could possibly imagine. The country has to be in Europe"
(SOUNDBITE) (English) VICE PRESIDENT OF SALES IN A LONDON BUSINESS, CLAIRE BUCHANAN, SAYING:
"I think what we have seen in the past of couple of years kind of proves the point that it was a good thing we aren't in the euro zone right now. We would be in real trouble if we hadn't had the opt out clauses that we have."
Sterling fell to its lowest in nearly five months against the dollar during the speech.
Robert Halver is a Frankfurt trader.
(SOUNDBITE) (German) ROBERT HALVER FROM BAADER BANK, SAYING:
"I've always been a great supporter of the English attitude which is orientated to the market economy. We wouldn't have many problems today if we had focused on that instead of bureaucracy, but I think the UK also needs the euro zone, we need each other."
Cameron isn't in favour of leaving the EU but he wants a "new settlement" which reclaims powers from Brussels.
He says that's the way to strengthen the Union.
But across the Channel - the French Foreign Minister wasn't convinced.
(SOUNDBITE) (French) FRENCH FOREIGN MINISTER LAURENT FABIUS SAYING:
"Of course we want the British to be able to bring all their positive characteristics to Europe but you can't do Europe a la carte - I'll give an example which our British friends will understand well - if you join a football club and are a member, you can't then say let's play rugby."
Cameron insists he's not retreating from the world but Europe is the UK's biggest trading partner,
And many believe alienating it could seriously damage the UK's economic prospects.
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