UK voters will be asked "Should the United Kindom remain a member of the European Union" in a referendum to be held before 2017. The exact wording of the referendum has been a cause for debate.
In a referendum to be held by 2017, UK residents will be asked to vote "yes" if they wish to remain in the European Union, government officials announced Thursday.
"Should the United Kingdom remain a member of the European Union?" is the exact question Britons will be confronted with.
Observers say the precise language used is important because those supporting Britain's continued membership in the EU will now be able to brand itself as the "yes" campaign. In last year's referendum on Scottish independence, some critics claimed the pro-union campaign appeared intrinsically negative because voters were required to say "no" to change.
The British government made the announcement as it prepares to introduce legislation Thursday guaranteeing that the referendum on EU membership will be held before 2017. Prime Minister David Cameron pledged to move swiftly with the referendum vote after his conservatives won a resounding electoral victory on May 7.
Cameron is seeking to recast the United Kingdom's relationship with the EU, winning back certain powers from the bloc. The British prime minister says he favors remaining in a reformed EU, but will leave all options on the table should he not get the changes he desires.
The referendum language "will pave the way for the British people to have their say for the first time in forty years on our place in the EU," an unidentified source in Cameron's office told news agency AFP.
"The question is clear. It will be for voters to decide whether to stay or leave."
Nigel Farage, leader of the Euroskeptic UK Independence Party blasted the proposed wording of the referendum.
"That Cameron is opting to give the pro-EU side the positive 'Yes' suggests strongly that his negotiations are so much fudge," Farage said. "He has already decided which way he wants the answer to be given, without a single power repatriated."
Cameron begins a whirlwind tour of European cities on Thursday in an attempt to secure the reforms he wants, such as reducing welfare benefits to migrants and reforming EU bureaucracy.
"We believe the right policy in reform, renegotiation and referendum," Cameron said Wednesday.
Cameron will meet Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte and French President Francois Hollande Thursday before traveling to Poland and Germany Friday to hold talks with Polish Prime Minister Ewa Kopacz and German Chancellor Angela Merkel.
bw/rc (Reuters, AFP, AP)