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Bold move or folly? Commenters react to Cameron's EU referendum pledge

By Sarah Brown
updated 11:37 AM EST, Wed January 23, 2013
  • British PM had said 'difficult questions' needed to be asked about Britain's EU membership
  • The 'Europe question' has long dominated British politics and proved challenging for successive British leaders
  • Commenters had diverse reactions to Cameron's move, from praise to ridicule

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(CNN) -- David Cameron's announcement that the UK will hold a referendum on European Union membership if his party wins another election has sparked strong reaction from CNN commenters on what the move could mean for Britain and Europe.

Cameron, who gave his remarks in a speech in London on Wednesday, said "difficult questions" needed to be asked about Britain's membership in the EU, otherwise British people could "drift towards the exit" as Europe fails.

He also asserted the British people's right to a choice about whether to remain in the EU on the basis of a renegotiated settlement, or to leave.

Some praised Cameron for a bold move that they argued protected UK interests and reasserted the nation's power.

"No member state should agree to be part of the European Union if it considers the terms and long term prospects to not be in its favor, why should it?" argued TomJT.

British PM promises vote on EU
UK PM promises referendum on leaving EU

"[He] is fighting for what the UK needs and sees the value in being part of a strong Europe, but ultimately [also] the impact of losing control of the Stock Exchange and being subject to the voting whims of countries that don't understand the island economy."

Commenter SwissSteve agreed, saying he saw "a lot of sense and potential leadership in Cameron's speech".

"The EU needs changes and if it changes for the worse (which is possible with the current level of democratic accountability), then the UK should, and will, waste no time in changing direction," he said.

But others decried the decision as a bluff, or a move to pander to more skeptical elements in Cameron's own country -- and party -- and questioned whether the move was part of a genuine desire for change in the Union.

"This is a statement of populist politics and fear of losing his chair. They will never leave the EU," said commenter Ss.

Can the Eurozone recover in 2013

Some also felt that the move was unfair for other nation members of the Union.

"I am not opposed to change in the EU, but this change can not be dictated by the UK (or any other single state for that matter)," said commenter Chri Sto.

"It has to come via a democratic process in which all member states are able to represent their individual standpoints. Threatening to leave the EU in case they do not conform with your ideas ... is not the way."

The "Europe question" has long dominated UK politics and proved a constant headache for successive UK prime ministers. Cameron has also faced heavy pressure in recent months from some members of his own party to hold a referendum on EU membership.

But political rivals, and other factions within his own party, fear that the move could prove poor timing as the country struggles to emerge from its financial troubles.

Commenter maxb500 echoed these concerns, describing the move as "laughable at best" and potentially catastrophic for the UK's slumping economy.

"You wonder why Cameron thinks he can single handily direct the whole EU what direction to take, while always giving insult after insult after insult about its existence, the Euro currency and much more."

Europe's decade of boom and bust

Other commenters were even more cynical

"Typical English whining and bluffing," scoffed commenter Rikardo_35. "They think they play at poker? Game over."

While Rikardo_35 dismissed Cameron's move as pure politicking, others wondered whether instability would be the result of any decision to leave the union.

disqus_Wuqf7D1NNP, a British national living in Germany, said questions had to be asked about what Cameron was "offering for sustainability in the way of moving forward", and feared the result of any economic uncertainty.

"If the economy dives, the violence we saw in the riots in the cities just recently in England will be ten fold in comparison to the fall out which could follow," said.

"Add that to the cuts in policing [and] you have a major recipe for disaster."

Cameron used his speech to talk of an "updated" union, which he envisioned as flexible, adaptable, open and "fit for the challenges of the modern age".

His remarks echoed those of some commenters, who argued, as commenter Gaƫl Christophe Mockelyn did, that the real problem could be the EU itself.

"The problem with the European Union is that they want to become the new United States, but they can't understand it would be never that way, because we are too different from each other," he wrote.

"The EU is a patchwork, a forced patchwork of different people, different cultures and different ways of thinking. How can you hope to harmonize it?"

Commenter Badrobot was even harsher in assessment, asking whether the institution itself, which won the 2012 Nobel peace prize, was rapidly falling into obsolescence.

"The European Union is a project, i.e. a colony of France. Sooner or later it will fall apart," he said.

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