The FINANCIAL -- Britain would vote to quit
the European Union if Prime Minister David Cameron's promised referendum
was held today, an opinion poll suggested on Thursday.
As EUbusiness said, in the first major survey since Cameron pledged on Wednesday to hold a public vote on Britain's troubled EU membership by the end of 2017, 40 percent said they would vote to leave and 37 percent to stay, the Times newspaper said.
Stripping out the 23 percent who were undecided and taking into account how likely people said they were to vote, the survey conducted by Populus for the Times said the figures translated into a 53-47 vote in favour of quitting.
Cameron has said he wants to renegotiate the terms of Britain's relationship with the 27-member bloc before calling a referendum to let the public decide whether or not to accept the new deal.
But the poll of some 2,000 Britons suggested many voters had already made up their minds.
Half of those in favour of staying in the EU, and two fifths of those against, said their vote in the referendum would have little or nothing to do with any opt-outs or repatriated powers the premier may win from Brussels.
Nevertheless, the Conservative leader emerged the clear favourite when voters were asked who they trusted most to hammer out a new deal between Britain and the EU.
Some 36 percent chose Cameron, compared to 18 percent who favoured the leader of the main opposition Labour party, Ed Miliband.
Only five percent backed Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg, who leads Cameron's pro-Europe coalition partners, the Liberal Democrats.
Joining the slew of European leaders who have criticised Cameron's proposal, Clegg said on Thursday that it was "wholly implausible" to think European rules could be re-written to "benefit us and disadvantage everybody else".
Cameron came face to face with world leaders at the World Economic Forum in Davos on Thursday for the first time since his landmark pledge.
"This is not about turning our backs on Europe -- quite the opposite," Cameron told an audience of business leaders, top politicians and journalists.
"It's about how we make the case for a more competitive, open and flexible Europe, and secure the UK's place within it."