In January 2013 UK Prime Minister David Cameron pledged that if the Conservative Party won the 2015 general election he would offer the British people a referendum to decide once and for all whether Britain remains in or withdraws from the EU.
There have been various polls and discussions about the proposed 2017 date with one particular Conservative MP who sees himself as a 'British Obama' calling on the PM to bring the date forward to 2014, however with general British attitudes to the European Union and the European Economic Community before it remaining largely sceptical, the result in four years may well be to withdraw.
It is obvious that the EU and EEC are fundamentally different institutions and if one compared the aims of the EEC in 1975 to the EU of 2013 then one would witness the expansion of the United States of Europe and the reduction in UK Parliamentary Sovereignty.
Fast forward nearly 40 years from the UK entering the EEC and several recessions later and we have landed in 2013 where the Eurozone remains immensely fragile and where there has been a rise in the number of Eurosceptic MEPs who want to withdraw from the EU. Next year the European elections are due to take place in which UKIP are expected to overtake the Tories and come first. A year later and UKIP leader Nigel Farage will once again attempt to be elected as a Member of Parliament.
As the UK - or England, Wales and Northern Ireland if Scotland leaves the United Kingdom next year - votes on whether to remain in the EU or withdraw, there are questions that have to be asked and thorough debates that need to be had.
David Cameron has stated very clearly that he prefers the UK in the EU but with powers repatriated from Brussels. Even the Liberal Democrats have said that they will offer a referendum, yet Labour Leader Ed Miliband has so far refused to commit his party to offering a referendum to the British people, a decision that may well cost Labour at the general election in 17 months.
There are many benefits to being a member of the EU; not least the increased rights consumers have as a result of being a European citizen. There are literally dozens of examples where consumers have protections in place, and in some cases such protections are not written down within national law.
Examples include reduced international calling charges when using a mobile phone in any EU member state, as a result of EU action charges have been slashed by 80%. Another example includes the right to return any product that you as a consumer have bought if it breaks within two years, and increased rights when travelling by air and rail such as the right to assistance and compensation if your flight or train has been delayed or cancelled.
As somebody who is rather sceptical to the European Union because of the bureaucracy and the fact that the institution is so out of touch from ordinary people, my stance has softened slightly since the announcement of a referendum. I support the Prime Minister's opinion that Britain is best placed in the EU but with powers brought back to London
The referendum that will take place is set to return a withdraw vote judging from polls over the last few months, but the EU like migration tends to be a one sided story when it is reported on in the press. It is important that there is a balanced debate with petty party politics set aside, because this is in the national interest and in the interest of the 3500 million consumers in the 28 EU Member States.
The EU is not just about being an institution which collaborates on defence and trade, it has been and can be used as a force for good, but only if it is reformed.