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Britain's opposition Labour Party backs Cameron's EU referendum plan

Reuters , Sunday 24 May 2015
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Britain's opposition Labour Party will back Prime Minister David Cameron's plans to hold a referendum on the country's European Union membership by the end of 2017, its acting leader said on Sunday.

Labour had fought this month's national election, in which it suffered a crushing defeat to Cameron's Conservatives, on the policy that it would offer Britons an EU referendum only if there were a further transfer of powers to Brussels from London.

Cameron, who has promised to renegotiate Britain's ties with the EU ahead of the referendum, will on Wednesday set out plans to enshrine the vote in law when his government's legislative agenda is published.

"The British people want to have a say on the UK's membership of the EU. Labour will therefore now support the EU referendum bill," acting Labour leader Harriet Harman and the party's foreign affairs spokesman Hilary Benn wrote in a joint article in the Sunday Times newspaper.

Harman and Benn said that while Labour wanted to see reforms to the EU, it would make the case for continued membership.

"The Labour Party does not want to see the UK stumble inadvertently towards EU exit," Harman and Benn said. "We have more power by being in the EU than we could ever hope to have by acting alone."

Cameron, who is due to host European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker for talks at his official country residence on Monday, has said he favours staying in a reformed EU but will rule nothing out if he fails to get the change he is seeking.

Among planned reforms he has outlined are restrictions to EU migrants' access to Britain's welfare system, an opt-out of "ever closer" union inside the bloc and to cut EU "red tape".

Business Secretary Sajid Javid said changes to tax credits, which top up the incomes of some working people, were central as EU citizens coming to Britain can receive twice as much as they would in Germany and three times as much as in France.

"That's the kind of thing we need to change ... It's a very key part of our negotiation," he told the BBC.

A YouGov poll for the Sunday Times, carried out May 21-22, found 44 percent of the 1,532 people surveyed favoured staying in the EU, while 36 percent would vote to leave. 

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