British PM Cameron woos eurosceptics ahead of EU vote
LONDON - Agence France-Presse
Cameron wants to remain in the EU but ties have often been strained. REUTERS PhotoBritish Prime Minister David Cameron made a fresh attempt Sunday to woo eurosceptic voters, ahead of this month's European elections set to push his ruling party into a humiliating third place.
Cameron has tried hard to burnish his eurosceptic credentials to placate his rebellious Conservative Party and counter the resurgent UK Independence Party (UKIP), which has pledged to yank Britain out of the European Union and do more to limit immigration.
The prime minister has promised to hold a referendum on EU membership in 2017, after renegotiating Britain's ties with the 28-member bloc.
Growing numbers of voters in Britain and elsewhere in Europe accuse the EU of bureaucratic meddling and of being distant and unrepresentative.
Recent opinion polls show the Conservatives are likely to come behind UKIP and the opposition Labour party in this month's European parliamentary elections, which would deal a blow to Conservative morale as campaigning gears up for next year's national general election.
"Once we've negotiated, whatever the outcome, the British people will have the final say on our future in Europe, with that in-out referendum in 2017," Cameron wrote in Britain's Sunday Telegraph newspaper.
"If you're reading this thinking 'I've heard all this before' - I get it ... I have made a clear and personal commitment: I would not be Prime Minister of a government unless we could carry out our pledge of an in-out referendum," he added.
The Europe vote will be held in Britain on May 22, the same day as local council elections.
Cameron wants to remain in the EU - a vital market for British goods - but ties with the bloc have often been strained as he has tried to change EU rules and budgets to satisfy an increasingly eurosceptic British public.
UKIP has harnessed this sentiment, and has mainly drawn voters away from the Conservatives. A strong showing in the European ballot would add to the party's already strong momentum.
Some analysts and many voters doubt Cameron can substantially renegotiate the EU treaties ahead of the proposed 2017 referendum.