Osborne says Britain rejects ever-closer EU

3rd November 2015, Comments 0 comments

Britons do not want to be part of Europe's "ever-closer" union, British finance minister George Osborne said Tuesday, arguing that the EU must protect the rights of non-euro members.

And as Britain heads towards a referendum on membership in the EU, due by late 2017, Osborne said taxpayers in non-euro countries must not be asked to bail out stricken eurozone members.

"We must never let taxpayers in countries that are not in the euro bear the cost of supporting countries in the eurozone," he said, months after EU and IMF lenders again bailed out debt-stricken Greece.

And participation in further European integration efforts, such as the banking union which is being formed, must remain "voluntary", he said.

Britain's chancellor of the exchequer was speaking at a Berlin meeting of the Federation of German Industry which was also attended by Chancellor Angela Merkel and Economy Minister Sigmar Gabriel, a day after meeting his counterpart Wolfgang Schaeuble.

He said London wants EU treaty change to safeguard the rights of non-eurozone countries, to protect its taxpayers and its crucial financial sector.

This would include "the recognition that the EU has more than one currency and we should not discriminate against any business on the basis of the currency of the country in which they reside", he said.

In return, London would not seek to block euro members as they seek closer economic and financial integration.

"Quite frankly, the British people do not want to be part of an ever closer union," Osborne said.

- 'British have to decide' -

Merkel reiterated her view that "the UK should remain an EU member" and pledged Germany would help "wherever we can" to prevent a "Brexit", while recognising that "the British have to decide" on the issue alone.

British Prime Minister David Cameron has promised to hold a referendum on EU membership before the end of 2017 and has said he will campaign to stay if he can obtain reforms that would loosen Britain's ties with the rest of the EU.

Cameron, who has not ruled out supporting a "Brexit", is expected to publish a list of British demands this month.

Osborne said: "We want Britain to remain in a reformed European Union, but it needs to be a European Union that works better for all the citizens of Europe -- and works better for Britain too".

He added that Britain does not want to be burdened with excessive EU regulation, saying: "We need to pick up the pace, make Europe more competitive, make us the home of jobs and innovation."

"If the EU allows itself to be priced out of the world economy, the next generation will not get jobs, living standards will decline and the Union will lose the popular consent of the people of Europe," Osborne said.

Osborne stressed that in Britain ever closer integration "is now supported by a tiny minority of voters".

"I believe it is this that is the cause of some of the strains between Britain and our European partners. Ever closer union is not right for us any longer."

© 2015 AFP

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