United Kingdom Members of Parliament have voted in support of Prime Minister David Cameron’s plans to take the country to a referendum on its membership to the European Union.
MPs voted overwhelmingly for the EU Referendum Bill on Tuesday evening, with 544 votes in favour to 53, pushing the bill through its first phase in parliament to a its next stage of examination before a committee of MPs.
Both the ruling Conservatives and their main opposition Labour voted in favour of the bill, while the Scottish Nationalist Party (SNP) rejected it.
During the lead-up to the British general elections in May, Labour had said it would oppose the referendum, but following their election defeat, the party said it would support the referendum but still encourage voters to opt for EU membership.
Speaking after the vote, UK Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond said the British public would have the “final say” on the UK’s membership to the EU, adding that a “generation” of Britons had previously been denied the right to decide on the issue.
"We've had referendums on Scottish devolution, referendums on Welsh devolution, referendums on our electoral system and on a regional assembly for the North East," Hammond said, "But an entire generation of British voters has been denied the chance to have a say on our relationship with the European Union."
"We need a fundamental change in the way the European Union operates. It is now a union which has at its core a eurozone of 19 members which will integrate more closely together.
"We expect to be able to negotiate a new deal which will address the concerns of the British people which we will then put to them in the promised referendum."
Since Prime Minister Cameron was re-elected last month, he has been touring European capitals to garner support for reforms, especially on EU migrants claiming benefits in Britain, and has vowed to secure a "better deal" for the UK in Europe ahead of the referendum, which is expected to take place by the end of 2017.
The latest surveys in the UK indicate a majority of voters are in favour of staying in the EU, with a recent survey by YouGov showing that 45 percent of UK citizens would vote in favour of staying as part of the EU and 36 percent would vote to leave it.
However, the results of such surveys vary widely. Surveys conducted earlier in the year by Opinium showed a majority of UK citizens want to leave the EU.