Britain's PM Cameron wins symbolic vote on EU referendum

LONDON (REUTERS) - Prime Minister David Cameron's attempt to make a referendum on Britain's European Union (EU) membership legally-binding easily passed its first hurdle on Friday when his Conservative Party won a vote on the issue in parliament.

Lawmakers supported a bill that legislates for an EU referendum by the end of 2017 by 304 votes to zero, in an exercise seen as a way to convince euro-sceptic Britons before a 2015 election that PM Cameron will give them an in/out EU vote.

The draft law could yet be defeated as it makes its way through parliament and won't bind the hands of the next government after the 2015 election, even if it does become law, and is therefore largely symbolic.

PM Cameron's pro-EU coalition partners, the Liberal Democrats, abstained after dismissing the vote as a parliamentary stunt.

Most Labour lawmakers also boycotted the vote, describing it as the Conservatives "talking to themselves".

PM Cameron, who wants Britain to stay inside a reformed EU, said in January that he would hold a referendum in the first half of the next parliament, providing he is re-elected.