Prime Minister David Cameron said Saturday that Britain would hold its historic referendum on whether to remain in the European Union on June 23.
“We are approaching one of the biggest decisions this country will face in our lifetimes,” Cameron said in a short statement outside 10 Downing Street, his official residence and the headquarters of the British government.
“This choice goes to the heart of what kind of country we want to be, and the future we want for our children,” he said.
“Let me be clear,” he added. “Leaving Europe would compromise our economic and national security.”
Cameron reached an EU deal in Brussels late Friday after marathon negotiations at a summit of the group’s leaders. He sought to amend the country’s relationship with the EU ahead of setting a date for the vote, in part because he faces skepticism within his own Conservative Party about the merits of retaining Britain’s ties with the 28-nation political bloc.
“Three years ago I committed to the British people that I would renegotiate our position in the EU and hold an in-out referendum. Now I am delivering that commitment. You will decide,” he said.
Cameron spoke after emerging from a Cabinet meeting on the issue. It was the first British Cabinet meeting held on a Saturday since the Falklands War in 1982. He said that his Cabinet backed his goal of keeping Britain in the EU.
Still, one of the prime minister’s closest allies who is held in high regard by Conservatives — Justice Minister Michael Gove — said he will campaign for a so-called Brexit or a British exit from the EU. Cameron said he was “disappointed but not surprised” by the move. A number of other Cabinet ministers and senior party members may follow suit, including Boris Johnson, London’s influential mayor.
An average of the six most recent polls of voting intentions showed that 51% of Britons would choose to remain in the EU, while 49% would opt to leave, according to What UK Thinks, an independent social research organization.
Stuart Shields, 48, who was visiting London on Saturday from Cambridgeshire, in eastern England, said Britain should leave the bloc. “I don’t think it’s value for money,” he said.
Ben Murphy, 30, from Kent, in southern England, wants Britain to stay in the EU. “It’s got to be better for trade,” he said.
SOURCE: Kim Hjelmgaard and Jane Onyanga-Omara