George Osborne to the EU: Change or Britain will leave
George Osborne has issued an ultimatum to the European Union, saying it "must change" in order to avoid a British exit.
David Cameron is preparing to give a major speech about Britain's future in Europe, which could pave the way for a referendum on EU membership. Some Conservatives say Britain should leave the EU if other members do not agree to much looser membership.
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The Chancellor insisted that he wants Britain to remain "an active part of a reformed EU".
A Treasury aide insisted that Mr Osborne's comments were fully consistent with the Government's position that the EU needs to change "and indeed is changing".
Douglas Alexander, Labour's Shadow Foreign Secretary, said Mr Osborne's comments were designed to appease Conservative backbenchers.
Vince Cable, the Business Secretary, has used a speech to describe the ongoing questions about Britain's membership of the EU as a "massive disruption".
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He said it was "deeply unhelpful" and welcomed the intervention by Philip Gordon, the US assistant secretary responsible for European affairs, who expressed concern about the consequences of Britain leaving the EU.
Nick Clegg this week said the Prime Minister is risking the "livelihood and safety" of millions of British people by raising questions about Britain's EU membership.
The Deputy Prime Minister said that "playing politics" with EU membership could jeopardise British jobs and hamper international police operations.
Mr Cameron's approach is being resisted by Angela Merkel of Germany. Mrs Merkel has told the Prime Minister she has no intention of opening an EU treaty negotiation in order to provide a new settlement that can be put to a referendum in Britain, The Daily Telegraph understands.
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Posted by: lotp 2013-01-12