Hague plays down UK decision on EU treaty

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British Foreign Secretary William Hague on Monday played down London's decision to veto a new EU treaty as part of Britain's longstanding role of opting out of European business when needed.

Speaking at a press conference with US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Hague insisted the veto of a "new fiscal compact" aimed at saving the euro did not change Britain's relationship with the 27-member European Union.

He said Britain will continue to play "an absolutely central and leading role" in determining EU positions on key foreign policy issues like Syria, Iran and the Middle East peace process.

Britain will also be key to "pushing forward the single markets in Europe, in championing free trade agreements," Hague said.

A leading eurosceptic, the top British diplomat insisted Britain's relationship with Europe would not change over London's decision to avoid participating in certain arrangements.

"That's not a new thing to do. The United Kingdom did not join the euro, and we're pleased we did not join the euro. We're not part of the Schengen border arrangements, and we're very satisfied that we're not," he added.

"Europe can develop in a way in which there are overlapping circles of decision-making, and not every nation has to participate in everything."

© 2011 AFP

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