U.K. prime minister prepares big speech on Europe

British Prime Minister David Cameron leaves Number 10 Downing Street on Jan. 18, 2013.

Tomorrow, U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron makes a keynote speech on his country's future within the European Union. Even before he opens his mouth, the speech is making waves.

Cameron will call for the terms of the U.K.'s membership of the union to be re-negotiated, a process that some say might eventually lead to the U.K. -- one of Europe’s biggest economies -- leaving the EU, creating turmoil in its wake.

The prime minister will say that he wants to regain control over some of the many powers that have been handed over to the European Commission in Brussels, like the power to limit the working week in the U.K. The prime minister may also offer to hold a referendum after the next election on whether to pull out of the union altogether.

Opinion polls suggest that a majority of people in the U.K. would vote to leave.

“We’re being ruled too much by Europe. That’s the point,” says Michael O’Brien.

“I don’t like the loss of our sovereignty,” claims Barbara Rawlings. “If I had the choice to come out, I would come out.”

The possibility that the U.K. might withdraw from the union has alarmed big business.

“Fifty percent of our exports go to the European market,” says Paul Everett, who speaks for the British auto industry. “A strong voice for the U.K. in Europe is absolutely essential for our future.”

Pressure has been building on David Cameron to tone down tomorrow’s speech. Even President Obama has become involved, reportedly urging Cameron in a phone call to show caution. The president clearly believes that the U.K. is a more useful ally inside the European Union.

About the author

Stephen Beard is the European bureau chief and provides daily coverage of Europe’s business and economic developments for the entire Marketplace portfolio.

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