Britain's Osborne warns EU not to underestimate reform drive
Britain's finance minister George Osborne on Tuesday warned his EU partners not to underestimate his government's determination to seek reform of the 28-nation bloc ahead of a planned referendum on British membership.
"We come here with a very clear mandate to improve Britain's relationship with the rest of the EU and to reform the EU so that it creates jobs and increases living standards for all its citizens," Osborne told reporters while arriving for a meeting of EU finance ministers.
Osborne, whose Conservative party won a surprise majority in parliament in Britain's general election last Thursday, said no one should have any doubt that Britain would hold the vote on EU membership, which is due to take place by the end of 2017.
"We go into the negotiations aiming to be constructive and engaged but also resolute and firm," Osborne said.
"No one should underestimate our determination to succeed for the working people of Britain, indeed the working people of the whole of the European Union," he said.
British Prime Minister David Cameron says he wants Britain to remain in the 28-nation bloc, but only if he can secure reforms such as changes on migration and benefits, and the repatriation of certain powers to London.
European Commission chief Jean-Claude Juncker -- who as head of the EU's executive arm would be responsible for drawing up plans for any changes -- said last week he was ready to work with Cameron "to strike a fair deal for the United Kingdom in the EU."
Juncker had earlier opened the door to minor changes to the EU's treaties, but his spokesman insisted last Friday that the bloc's four key principles including freedom of movement were "non-negotiable".
The other freedoms are movement of goods, services and capital.
© 2015 AFP