Britain warns crisis could sideline non-euro countries

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Britain's prime minister warned Sunday that countries outside the eurozone risked being frozen out amid efforts for a pooled response to the crisis crippling the 17-nation single currency bloc.

"What you've got happening in Europe at the moment is eurozone countries coming together recognising that they've got to do more things together and frankly it's in Britain's interest that they do sort out the problems they've got," said David Cameron after a crunch EU summit.

"But there is a danger ... that as this eurozone coming together happens, there is a risk that those countries outside the euro ... might see the eurozone members starting to take decisions that affect the single market."

He stressed that he had pushed for safeguards to be included in the final statement to prevent this happening as diplomats said a row over the text had delayed the end of the meeting.

The final statement insists on "a level playing field among all member states including those not participating in the euro."

Any further coordination within the eurozone must take place in "full respect of the integrity of the European Union as a whole and its operation at 27," the statement adds.

Asked if he found it frustrating to watch decisions being taken in the eurozone without being in the room, Cameron said: "Well, no, I don't find it frustrating because I'm not in the euro and I don't want Britain to join the euro."

He stressed that Britain was a "constructive" member of the European Union and added it was in London's interest that the eurozone overcame its debt crisis, which he termed "crippling."

"In order to get a British recovery, we need to get a eurozone recovery too," said Cameron.

However, he also said that London would use any changes to the treaty to strengthen eurozone coordination as an opportunity to "repatriate powers back from the EU" to Britain.

Britain and Denmark are the only EU countries that officially have an opt-out from joining the single currency but nations such as Sweden also show no sign of wanting to swap their national money for the crisis-hit euro.

"Right now in Sweden, the support for the Swedish currency has probably never been so high as it is now," said Swedish Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt.

"The Swedish people in a referendum in 2003 said no, and we have said we would respect that until we see a clear switch in the opinion," added Reinfeldt.

Cameron is also facing mounting pressure to hold a referendum on Britain's membership of the European Union on the eve of a non-binding but politically significant parliamentary vote on the issue.

"I don't think this is the last time to legislate for an in-out referendum. I think this is the right time to sort out Europe's problems, sort out the eurozone problems, defend your national interest and look to the opportunities there may be in the future to repatriate powers back to Britain," he said.

© 2011 AFP

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