Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne will take the British government’s campaign for EU reform to three Scandinavian capitals on Monday (24 August), hoping to drum up support from non-euro member states such as Sweden and Denmark.
Prime Minister David Cameron’s Conservative government, re-elected for a five-year term in May, aims to renegotiate the terms of Britain’s membership of the 28-nation EU and then to put the settlement to a national referendum by the end of 2017.
During his trip, Osborne will focus on protecting the integrity of the EU’s single market and the rights of non-euro nations as the 19 countries that use the common currency press for closer economic integration, the British Treasury said in a statement.
Osborne is expected to say: “This government has been given a very clear mandate to renegotiate Britain’s relationship with the rest of the EU and to reform the EU so it works for all its citizens. We are determined to deliver a new settlement for Europe that works for everyone within it.
“The results of our efforts will be put to the British people in a referendum and they will decide.
“As part of that, our process of renegotiation must include engaging actively with our key partners in Europe and that’s why today’s meetings in Finland, Sweden and Denmark are so important.”
The Danish crown is allowed to float within a narrow range of the euro. The Swedish crown is not closely tied to the euro, and support among Swedes for joining the common currency is low.
Osborne will also visit eurozone-member Finland. He is due to meet his counterparts in the three countries on his itinerary as well as the Danish and Swedish prime ministers.
Britain, which joined the EU in 1973, has traditionally seen Denmark and Sweden as allies within the bloc because they have tended to share its more sceptical approach towards closer European integration.
Meanwhile, the Sunday Times reported over the weekend that leading members of the No campaign have contacted at least eight cabinet ministers to get their support. A source close to the campaign told the paper: “Some are very tempted. There are a lot of ministers and donors who in their blood want to leave but will bide their time to see the way the wind is blowing.”
It has also emerged that Lord Mandelson, the Labour former business secretary and EU trade commissioner, has offered to advise the European Commission on how to prevent Britain leaving the union.
The Commission has set up a new Brexit taskforce, led by veteran official Jonathan Faull.
David Cameron has not revealed in full detail what he wants but some of the demands include:
- An opt-out on the "ever closer union"
- The sovereignty of national parliaments to be boosted, so groups of them can block proposed EU legislation
- Safeguard the City of London and other financial centres outside the eurozone
- Curb EU immigration by cutting benefits
- Make the EU more streamlined and competitive
To get what it wants the UK believes it will need to rewrite treaties agreed by all 28 EU members.