Britain's opposition Labour party is preparing to change
its policy on the European Union by pledging to hold a
referendum on the country's membership of the bloc at some
point if it is elected in 2015, the Times newspaper reported.
Citing an unnamed source close to the Labour party, it said
Labour leader Ed Miliband would seek to reform Britain's EU
ties and back holding a membership referendum, but not by
2017 as Prime Minister David Cameron has pledged.
The report said Miliband was open to changing the bloc's
founding treaties and would use any treaty change as an
opportunity for a referendum. An announcement was expected in
the next two weeks, the article said.
If an election was held today polls suggest Labour would win
since they enjoy a lead of around 5 percentage points over
Cameron's Conservative party. The next national election is
still 15 months away, however.
Labour has yet to publicly state whether it wants an EU
referendum, but has been critical of a promise by Cameron, it
re-elected, to hold an in/out vote on Britain's EU membership
by the end of 2017.
If he wins the next election, Cameron has said he would try
to reform Britain's EU ties before offering such a vote.
When asked about the Times report, a Labour spokesman
declined to confirm or deny it.
"We will keep our position consistent ... We have always said
that any decision about a European referendum will be based
on the national interests," the spokesman said.
"We do not believe committing now to an in/out referendum in
2017 is in Britain's national interest."
Some opinion polls show a slim majority of Britons would vote
to leave the EU if given the chance, with many frustrated at
perceived interference from Brussels in domestic politics.
That frustration has been reflected in the growing support in
polls for the anti-EU UK Independence party (UKIP).
In an interview with Reuters earlier this month, UKIP leader
Nigel Farage said Miliband's backing for a referendum on EU
membership would be the "single most important determinant of
whether Britain leaves the European Union" because it would
dramatically increase the chances of a vote taking place.