Category: World / January 23, 2013 10:58 AM EST
Over half of Britons would opt to leave the European Union unless Prime Minister David Cameron can negotiate a significant return of powers they believe have been relinquished to the EU, according to a poll published last week.
The Opinium/Observer survey states that 53 percent of Britons believe the UK should withdraw from the EU if Cameron cannot claw back powers from Brussels, while only 19 percent disagreed.
Londoners were mixed on Wednesday (January 23) after Prime Minister David Cameron pledged to reform Britain's role in the EU and seek voters' backing in a referendum before the end of 2017, providing he wins the 2015 elections.
Andre Winter a fund manager at a specialist banking and asset management group, Investec, said a referendum was a positive move that would encourage public debate, but added that it was important the UK remains in the EU.
"My view is it is good to have the debate, the in-out referendum creates that opportunity, but I read that David Cameron is going to vigourously debate or argue the case to keep us in Europe and I think that is really important. From a business standpoint, the lobby from the CBI and business people is very, very clear. Europe has got 300 million consumers, the same size as the United States and we need to be part and parcel of that market."
Cameron shrugged off warnings that his announcement for a referendum could imperil Britain's economic prospects and alienate its biggest trading partner.
He said the island nation, which joined the EU's precursor European Economic Community (EEC) 40 years ago, did not want to retreat from the world, but public disillusionment with the EU was at "an all-time high".
Claire Buchanan, a vice president of sales at a London business said she would opt out of the EU, if given the choice. She says the financial crisis that beset the eurozone countries was proof enough for her that EU membership was also bad for Britain.
"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," said Claire, who added she was 'anti-EU'.
Cameron's speech on Europe firmly ties him to an issue that was the bane of a generation of Conservative leaders. In the past, he has avoided partisan fights over Europe, the undoing of the last two Conservative prime ministers, John Major and Margaret Thatcher.
Gordon Harris, a lawyer in central London, said Cameron's call for a referendum was an attempt to quash tensions within his own party and avoid a similar fate to Major and Thatcher.
He is vehemently opposed to leaving the economic bloc of 27 trading nations.
"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, it will be a ruination for the economy if we do anything else and he (David Cameron) is just pandering to a minority within his own party and to the great detriment of the country. It is a disastrous decision," said Gordon.
Cameron's proposal to reclaim powers from Brussels does not sit well with other European countriesLondon will do an "audit" to determine which powers Brussels has that should be delegated to member states.
Sterling fell to its lowest in nearly five months against the dollar on Wednesday as Cameron was speaking.
Business leaders have warned that the prospect of years of doubt over Britain's EU membership would damage the investment climate.
The speech also opens a rift with Cameron's junior coalition partners, the Liberal Democrats. Their leader, Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg, said the plan would undermine a fragile economic recovery.