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Britain to Germany: EU must change to keep us
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Britain to Germany: EU must change to keep us

Published: 12 Jan 2013 08:54 GMT+01:00
Updated: 12 Jan 2013 08:54 GMT+01:00

Britain's finance minister George Osborne told a German newspaper on Friday that the European Union must change the way it deals with its member states if it aims to keep Britain in its ranks.

"I hope very much that Britain remains a member of the EU," the Chancellor of the Exchequer told daily Die Welt in remarks published in German. "But for us to stay in the European Union, the EU must change."

He indirectly criticised a German drive for closer coordination within the 27-country bloc as part of efforts to get at the root of problems behind the eurozone debt crisis.

"We welcome the euro being strengthened but we also want the rights of the countries that are not part of the euro to be protected under these changes, Osborne said.

Britain has belonged to what is today called the EU since 1973 but has not joined the 17-nation eurozone. British Prime Minister David Cameron is due to give a long-awaited speech later this month in which he is expected to offer a referendum after general elections in 2015 on taking back powers from the 27-member bloc.

On Thursday a senior member of parliament from German Chancellor Angela Merkel's party said a referendum could "paralyse" Europe and said any attempt at "blackmailing" other EU nations would backfire on Britain.

"Britain would risk being isolated. That cannot be in Britain's interests," Gunther Krichbaum, the chairman of the Bundestag's European affairs committee, told reporters as he led a cross-party delegation to London.

"You cannot create a political future if you are blackmailing other states. That will not help Britain."

Osborne's German counterpart Wolfgang Schäuble had already warned Britain in a newspaper interview last month against "blackmailing" its EU partners in a bid to bring powers back home from Brussels.

Germany and Britain have in recent months shared some common ground on the need to reduce EU spending although they differed on specifics at the latest budget talks in November.

The German legislator's warning came a day after an unprecedented intervention on the issue from the United States, which is Britain's closest international ally.

US assistant secretary for European affairs Philip Gordon told reporters at the American embassy in London on Wednesday that Washington wanted an "outward-looking EU with Britain in it."

German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle said on Friday he also hoped that Britain would not leave the EU fold.

"In light of the current debate about the role of Britain in the EU, I say: Germany is keen to have a Britain that remains a constructive and active partner in the EU," he told Der Spiegel magazine.

"The European house of the future, as before, will have various levels of integration but we would like to see a closer and better EU, of 27, with Britain."

AFP/jlb

The Local (news@thelocal.de)

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Your comments about this article

10:49 January 12, 2013 by blackboot11
If Germany had made the same decision to keep their Deutschemark as the UK had kept their beloved Pound as a currencey, I am SURE that they would be singing a VERY different tune today.....
11:53 January 12, 2013 by avatar009
Greating all

The important thing is the EU must change, so that the british economy improves within the EU, market. In the meantime is disproving and wasting british taxpayers, so the EU must change and fight corruption before it collapsed.

The problem of the US ambasador has, is he forget the german ears they still hearing the burning buildings in dersden during WWII, as mr wolves schauble stated that britten will be isolated, that the EU is the only market in the world according to his scope. The alternative is the EU must change from domestic Franco german level into global level.
12:12 January 12, 2013 by blackboot11
@ avatar009: your statement :"The alternative is the EU must change from domestic Franco german level into global level." ......is so on point !
12:23 January 12, 2013 by michael4096
There is a basic difference between the aims of the EU and Britain. The EU is trying to create a stable, level playing field for business, though not always successfully. Britain prefers instability and a bit of skew because that is where it succeeds best. There is no right and wrong but its not clear how they can be reconciled.
13:51 January 12, 2013 by crm114
kick 'em out.
14:28 January 12, 2013 by Zubair Khan
US assistant secretary for European affairs Philip Gordon told reporters at the American embassy in London on Wednesday that Washington wanted an "outward-looking EU with Britain in it." So here lies the main problem. US always sees untied Europe as upcoming world power which can compete with US.
18:26 January 12, 2013 by chicagolive
The EU in its current form is just a fiefdom for Germany and England will not play that game. Germany broke rules left and right and dared any of the members to say something or try and penalize them. Alot of their own banks are behind the failures of some of the PIIGS. Now that the same thing is happening in other countries Germany is acting all high and mighty. Their is no EU till Countries actually level the playing field, only Germany is benefiting and they are not interested in sharing that.
19:50 January 12, 2013 by Redwing
I am a British voter. I am pro-EU. If the promised referendum comes to pass and the question is:' in or out' I shall vote 'out' because I think the EU is better off without the UK.
20:30 January 12, 2013 by www.emungus.net
THE BAKER AND THE GOLDEN HEN

One who is willing to leave does not hesitate to slam the door. UK has long threatened to quit the EU, but has always kept herself from making her threats decisive : she knows that it can be a risky step. Instead, she is hanging around in means of sporadic requirements, shakedowns. And it works indeed, it makes Paris and especially Berlin to shudder (they need her, of course).

Whims of a golden hen. UK lays golden eggs, she is de facto a golden hen. And in her legendary pride, UK does not hear the signal and advices from Washington suggesting her to keep her place in the EU. Cameron administration has dryly (almost comically) responded that U.S. has nothing to meddle in a matter between Europeans... Yet it is the same UK that often has been refraining herself to fully play her European card (...). Let us give a go the real matter. Germany hosts the economic lung of Europe : the European Central Bank , a big cake ! Position greatly envied by big fishes. The bottom reason of UK repetitive blackmails is simple (but not easy ) : she too wants to cut a piece out of the big cake. A point at which Germany is too sensitive. Merkel may ever be willing to share the cake that way. Francois Hollande has made the same move, he found a firm Merkel on his way. UK should play softly so as not to rush things. She would use her position at the right time so she can then forward her demands.
21:23 January 12, 2013 by karldehm
United together we are stronger fighting in the international war of business. For Europe to work better, we have to make the European Union have the power to work as one, not fragmented as it is.

Now, whether the UK wants to part of this or not, is their decision, but I don't think it would be in either of our interests to part.

Here's a question for someone. If the UK leaves, will that mean that the goods made in the UK and entering Europe are subject to higher duties? I thinks so, but I'm not sure.

Conceivably, If the increase in duties results in loss of sales, could it not be possible for BMW to move their production of the MINI and Rolls-Royce a little closer to home.
08:14 January 13, 2013 by owlguard
It is all a dangerous game. The US current president insulted the UK by returning a statue that had been in the whitehouse for decades. The current US president treated the Queen of England like their grandmother when they visited England while bowing down before a Sadia King like servants. I do not trust what the US is up to. I dont know if England and Germany have much choice in how they proceed. A lot of ordinary working class people will be holding heir breath while the nations leaders play dangerous games.
08:36 January 13, 2013 by toemag
Lot's of points to be made on the continued membership of a €U that dictates to it's member states. The first being we never voted for our so-called Presidents. The second being that if Mr Camerorn does decide to keep his election promise and have a referendum on €U membership the Brussels bandits will probably replace him as they did with the Greek and Italian PM's....
10:15 January 13, 2013 by DOZ
Kick out the Yankee Puppets. Free Europe from America, Canada and Britain.
12:33 January 13, 2013 by Englishted
@DOZ

Thats the way, lets leave Europe with a undemocratic leadership that can impose new leaders on the weakest countries ,heaven forbid that somebody suggests that the budget should be frozen while we sort out this sorry mess.While we are at it lets expand East and South so we can have another source of cheap labour but we don't need to ask the electorate as we never have before.
00:26 January 14, 2013 by sonriete
why is it blackmail when the British negotiate for a looser union but not so when those on the continent negotiate for a deeper union?

Just asking.
12:16 January 14, 2013 by michael4096
@sonriete

A bunch of elected foreign ministers representing 270m people trying to solve problems facing their 270m is usually called democracy

A single minister representing 70m saying "I will misuse EU rules to stop you addressing the problems of your 270m people unless you tilt the playing field even more in my direction" is usually called blackmail
12:28 January 14, 2013 by Big L
Typical British arrogance. The tail does not like the dog so the dog must change. Let them isolate themselves more, soon TATA will own Buckingham Palace too.
14:56 January 14, 2013 by BobbyBaxter
Seems to be a lot of Anti-British sentiment on this board.

It is only the Germans/French who have used the words 'Blackmail', 'threat' and 'risk' so far. Just like any country in the EU the UK is simply looking after its own business. It is in the nature of the UK and its people to be slightly isolationist, but that is not always a bad thing.

The UK always raised concerns of having a single currency and these concerns have come to fruition - this is the reason the UK feels less of a responsibilty than other EU countries in solving the EU crisis.
16:17 January 14, 2013 by michael4096
@BobbyBaxter

The blackmail bit must be true because Cameron has just explicitly denied it...

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/politics/9799868/David-Cameron-I-am-not-blackmailing-Europe-over-EU-referendum.html

Anyway, why is it anti-British for posters here to disagree with a position taken by a particular government? Do you always agree with your government? Or, do you reserve the right to think for yourself?
16:54 January 14, 2013 by jenniel
Must think we are all dead if we don't agree with him, Won't give us the choice to frightened...

David Cameron today claimed the ¦#39;beating heart¦#39; of the British people wants to remain in the European Union, as he revealed his long-awaited big speech on a new deal with Brussels is finished.

The Prime Minister is under fire from all sides ahead of his landmark speech setting out how he plans to repatriate powers from the EU before staging a public vote.

He attacked the 'bossiness' of Brussels and insisted he was ¦#39;not happy¦#39; with every aspect of the UK¦#39;s relationship with the rest of Europe, but refused to commit to withdrawing if he failed in his bid to secure a better deal.

And he rejected claims from Germany that he was trying to blackmail other European countries into accepting his demands for greater independence.

'I¦#39;m not blackmailing anyone. Just like every other European country Britain has a perfect right to say we are members of this club, we are prominent members, we pay a large bill for being a member of this club. We¦#39;re perfectly entitled to argue that it needs to change.'

A poll yesterday suggested Mr Cameron could see off the rising political threat from Ukip by promising an in-out referendum in his speech. The ComRes poll for the Sunday People found 37 per cent of Ukip supporters would desert the party if that pledge was made.

Nearly two-thirds of those quizzed wanted a national vote on whether Britain should remain in the EU.

The poll also found some 33 per cent said they would cast their ballot in favour of a full withdrawal. However, more people, 42 per cent, said they were against leaving.

It also suggested Ukip could push the Tories into third place in next year¦#39;s European Parliament elections. The poll put Labour on 35 per cent, Ukip on 23, the Tories on 22 and the Lib Dems on 8 per cent.
17:28 January 14, 2013 by sonriete
I think a reasonable person can see the threat " you will be isolated and marginalized " if you don't follow our lead can be seen just as much as blackmail as " we will leave if you don't compromise with us" I can't see how the British wanting to repatriate some powers from Brussels represents tilting the playing field in their favor anyway. Some would say the way the Continental elected foreign ministers willfully ignored referendum results coming out of the Netherlands and France was less than democratic, but I suppose there is a diversity of opinion on that matter. Not everyone on the continent thinks like Guy Verhofstadt or Viviane Reding, but the way Brussels is organized, people with their world view always seem to get there way in the EU anyway, EU parliament or not.
17:47 January 14, 2013 by Englishted
@michael4096

Is that the same "elected foreign ministers representing 270m people" who imposed a unelected leader on both Greece and Italy ?.

If the E.U. is so democratic why was there no vote on expansion?

I asked in my local German pub last Friday night if anybody could name the elected representative of our small town in the European government although the place was fairly full nobody could ,try this yourselves and then tell me how democratic the E.U. is because if you don't know who is your rep how do you vote them out of office ?.
18:01 January 14, 2013 by michael4096
@sonriete

These are not EU daily business meetings but the participant countries' leaders - the EU's bosses bosses. They determine strategy and give the EU in Brussels their instructions. It isn't the EU bullying Britain but 27 countries trying to find a way forward, together. Of course, the 26 other participants are also fighting their corner, they want to do the best for their electorate, so they sit down and discuss things - they negotiate. Britain once did the same, John Major went into an even more hostile environment in Maastricht and negotiated a really good deal for Britain. But, then, he didn't go into the meeting saying veto, veto and he didn't storm out like a petulant child when others didn't agree with everything he said.

Among other things, the EU defines a free trade area but trade cannot be free unless everybody agrees to a set of minimums. To take an extreme example, there cannot be free trade if one member legalizes child labour - the others cannot compete and so they would introduce tariffs to compensate. Different countries have different ideas about what these minimums should be - Germany and France want tight rules, Britain more liberal rules, but the point is there must be rules and these must be agreed for all. Britain's attitude that it can pick and choose which rules it feels like agreeing to today is unworkable. If they think the rules are too tight then by all means convince the other partners and negotiate looser rules but opt-outs defeat the primary objective.
19:23 January 14, 2013 by sonriete
@michael4096

I agree with nearly everything in your last post. That said, in this post you are mostly talking about trade rules, I think the British mostly have their eye on Justice issues, we can also be mindful that Cameron is in a much more difficult place than Major, having to fend off groups like the UKIP and people like Rupert Murdoch, who is not even a EU citizen, or even a resident.

If Merkel had to protect her right flank from a viable threat taking votes from the right, you can imagine she would be singing a very different tune right now.

Just look at all the borderline racist drivel that came out of Sarkozy's mouth last spring when he faced a threat from Marianne LePen. He was attacking Muslims, Roma, any target he could locate, for the British for historical reasons it is always Brussels rather than the Roma, but it's really the same thing. The smart thing for the EU is for the rest to offer some concessions, and bear this for a while.
01:26 January 15, 2013 by jg.
The European Union Act of 2011 requires that the transfer of further powers from the UK parliament to Brussels must be subject to a referendum.. A poll taken a couple of years ago in the UK showed that 75% would not support the transfer of any further powers to Brussels but less than 50% would actually vote to leave the EU i.e. the British don't hate others in the EU but they don't want to be part of a federal EU. A more recent poll (Nov 2012) showed that 56% would now vote to leave the EU, Clearly, the 56% were not all UKIP supporters: 68% of Conservatives, 40% of Labour supporters and 39% of LibDems said they would vote to leave the EU. This means that any treaty changes necessary to support further integration would not be ratified by Britain. If the other member states are keen to press on with a federal EU, they would only be able to proceed without Britain as an EU member, refusing to sign new or amended treaties. Cameron is deluded and trying to sit on the fence - a UK:EU divorce is inevitable.
11:04 January 15, 2013 by michael4096
@Englishted - I agree with much of what you say but this is not the EU's doing. All the points you make are direct, or consequences of, decisions by the Camerons of Europe. The directly elected representatives of the countries participating are responsible for the EU's authority, structure, rules and ultimately their actions. Not only do they make the rules but they have regular meetings to fine-tune them. They even set the agenda for their own meetings. For the EU to solve the 'problems' you see would actually be undemocratic as they haven't been given that authority.

Additionally, of all the problems that can only be solved at that stratospheric level, how many are actually ever addressed? There appears to be no enthusiasm to solve real problems at the elected representatives who's job it is.

@sonriete - so you think that the Cameron's of this world just use the EU as a scapegoat? Perhaps Cameron is using a split in the EU to detract from a split in the British union on his watch? How devious! (And, probably correct.)

@jg. - The figures you give do underline how electorates can change their minds rapidly depending on many factors that have nothing to do with the issue at hand. The British mentality of supporting the 'underdog' might make a difference the other direction once euro-skepticism becomes mainstream. Also, the preference for Spitting Image over Newsnight can elevate Farage's Marauders in the short-term but its not clear that the people would actually vote for a glove puppet when it really counts. I guess we'll see.
18:10 January 15, 2013 by jenniel
We joined the common market, not this gross money squandering monstrosity.We have to borrow billions to pay into the eu, every week they come up with a new scheme to make our costs more.Most people even middleclass families are struggling to make ends meet, and the European parliament just keeps on squandering it.Giving out luxury gifts, treating themselves like royalty.They have NEVER balanced a set of accounts in all their history !! AND STILL THEY WANT MORE AND MORE,time they were shut down or replaced by people with a conscience !!
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