red double-decker bus passing palace of westminster, london during daytime

In January 2013, British Prime Minister David Cameron promised an “in/out” referendum on British membership of the European Union in 2017, after a period of renegotiation with the EU, if the Conservative Party wins an outright majority at the next general election, expected in 2015. Both Labour and the Liberal Democrats oppose the policy of guaranteeing a referendum in 2017, holding instead that a referendum should only be held if there is a further transfer of sovereignty to the European Union. Since 2010, polls have indicated that the UK public is divided on the question, with opposition peaking in November 2012 at 56% compared to 30% who wanted to remain and support peaking in 2013. The largest ever poll (20,000) showed the public to be split on the issue, with 41% in favour of withdrawal, 41% in favour of membership, and 18% undecided. However, when asked how they would vote if Britain renegotiates its terms with the EU, and the government says British interests are better protected, a wide majority of over 50% said they would vote to stay. While no state has ever withdrawn from the EU, Greenland, part of the Danish Realm, voted to leave the EU’s predecessor, the European Economic Community (EEC), in 1985, and Algeria left upon independence in 1962, having been a part of France until then. The first United Kingdom European Communities membership referendum, 1975 endorsed the continuation of the UK’s membership.

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