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Britain's opposition Labour party to pledge EU referendum: report

Britain's Labour Party opposition leader Ed Miliband delivers a speech at a university in central London January 17, 2014. REUTERS/Toby Melv
Britain's Labour Party opposition leader Ed Miliband delivers a speech at a university in central London January 17, 2014. REUTERS/Toby Melv

LONDON (Reuters) - 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 elected in 2015, the Times newspaper reported on Wednesday.

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.

Labour has yet to publicly state whether it wants an EU referendum, but has been critical of a promise by Cameron's Conservative party to hold an in/out vote on Britain's EU membership by the end of 2017 - if it retains power.

"We do not believe it is in the UK's national interest now to set an artificial timetable for a referendum," a Labour spokesman told Reuters on Wednesday when asked about the report, which he declined to confirm.

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).

(Reporting by William James; Editing by Andrew Osborn)

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