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UK puts off referendum on EU but Cameron suffers embarrassment

British MPs this evening defeated a motion calling for the holding of a referendum on whether the UK should leave the European Union, but although the margin was wide, the result was still an embarrassment for Prime Minister David Cameron, with some 80 members of his own Conservative Party voting against.

The vote was 483 against the holding of the referendum and 111 in favour.

Cameron had pleaded with Conservative MPs not to act "rashly and prematurely." He told them that he shared the frustrations of Eurosceptics who have been demanding for years that Britain reclaim powers from Brussels.

But he insisted those issues should not be addressed until the "burning building" of the eurozone debt crisis was under control.

Most MPs of the Opposition Labour Party and Cameron's Liberal Democrats voted against the motion, although some 20 Labour MPs voted in favour.

This was the most serious challenge to Mr Cameron's authority since he became party leader six years ago. Conservative MPs have accused the leadership of bullying tactics and bungling party management by imposing a strict three-line Whip on the motion.

There was also a furious response to efforts by Foreign Secretary William Hague to quell the rebellion, with some backbenchers saying he had "gone native" and abandoned his Eurosceptic values.

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