London (CNN) -- British lawmakers on Monday rejected a call to hold a referendum on the country's continued membership in the European Union.
The motion, which was not expected to pass, was non-binding. It failed in a 111-483 vote.
British Prime Minister David Cameron opposed the motion, as did many members of his Conservative party. Still, many others voted for it -- marking a significant rebellion.
Eighty-one Conservative MPs voted in favor of the referendum, about a quarter of the party, according to Sir George Young, leader of the House of Commons and a member of Cameron's Cabinet.
The vote came at an embarrassing time for the prime minister, who is working hard to insert himself into discussions around the European debt crisis.
"It is not the right time, at this moment of economic crisis, to launch legislation that includes an in-out referendum," Cameron told lawmakers before the vote.
"When your neighbor's house is on fire, your first impulse should be to help them put out the flames, not least to stop the flames reaching your own house. This is not the time. This is not the time to argue about walking away not just for their sakes, but for ours," he said.
Parliament took up the vote after an online petition calling for a referendum attracted more than 100,000 signatures, triggering consideration of the subject.
Britain's membership in the EU has long been a contentious issue within the Conservative party. The debt crisis in Europe has helped to reignite that debate.
Following Monday's vote, Downing Street released a statement saying the government must do what's in the best interest of the nation.
"The easy thing to do would have been for us to have avoided expressing a view. It was important to take a strong lead -- because Britain's best interests are served by being in the EU," it read.