UK minister to launch ultimatum: Reform or we'll leave the EU

  

British Finance Minister George Osborne will warn the European Union today it must reform if it wants Britain to remain a member, and say it faces decline if it resists change, said an official familiar with the contents of his speech.

Addressing a conference on reform of the 28-nation bloc, Osborne, a close ally of Prime Minister David Cameron, will say his ruling Conservative party is determined, if re-elected in 2015, to keep its promise to renegotiate Britain's EU ties before offering Britons an in/out membership referendum.

"Our determination is clear: to deliver the reform and then let the people decide," Osborne will say, according to advance extracts of the speech released by his office.

"It is the status quo which condemns the people of Europe to an ongoing economic crisis and continuing decline. And so there is a simple choice for Europe: reform or decline."

According to the official, Osborne will make it clear he wants Britain to stay in the EU, but say meaningful reform is vital for it to remain a member of a club it joined in 1973.

"The Chancellor will warn that the European Union reform and renegotiation is necessary both for Britain's continuing membership and to avoid ongoing economic crisis and decline," the official said.

Osborne's rare foray into Britain's emotive Europe debate is likely to irk EU officials and some European politicians who will resent his gloomy assessment of the bloc's economy and some of the blunt language he will deploy to make his case.

It is also likely to be seen as an attempt to shore up his party's fragile position ahead of European Parliament elections in May, where it faces a threat from the anti-EU UK Independence Party, and to calm a fractious anti-EU element in Osborne's own party before a national election in 2015.

History of divisions

Divisions over Europe have torn the Conservative party apart in the past and undid the last two Conservative prime ministers, John Major and Margaret Thatcher.

Cameron thought his promise last year of a renegotiation and of a referendum had united the party, but eurosceptic lawmakers have shown signs of becoming restless over the issue again.

Almost 100 of Cameron's 303 Conservative lawmakers in the lower house of the British parliament wrote to him at the weekend saying they wanted the chamber to have the ability to block new EU legislation and to repeal existing measures which threatened "national interests".

Government ministers said the request was "unrealistic".

Many polls have shown a slim majority of Britons - disenchanted with the EU's red tape and what they view as its overbearing intervention in their everyday lives - would vote to leave the EU if given the chance.

Other polls have been less equivocal. But both pro and anti-EU groups agree any referendum would be close.

The Conservatives have not yet disclosed all the areas they want to reform, but the general thrust of their demand is that they want Britain and other member states to repatriate powers in policy areas such as immigration and social security.

Osborne, who is presiding over a strong economic recovery in Britain, will say the European economy has stalled and is being shown up by economies like China and India.

"We knew there was a competitiveness problem in Europe before the crisis," he will say.

"But the crisis has dramatically accelerated the shifts in the tectonic economic plates that see power moving eastwards and southwards on our planet."

He will single out Europe's decreasing share of world patent applications, its high unemployment rates, and its welfare spending as areas that reflect its decline.

"As Angela Merkel has pointed out, Europe accounts for just over seven percent of the world's population, 25 percent of its economy, and 50 percent of global social welfare spending. We can't go on like this."

Positions: 

Katja Hall, chief policy director at the Confederation of British Industry (CBI)  reacted by saying:

“The benefits to the UK of the EU single market far outweigh the costs and it remains fundamental to future growth and jobs.

“The Chancellor sets out a compelling case for reform to ensure Europe stays competitive.  We need an EU that is more open and outward looking and must protect UK influence as the Eurozone integrates.

“A growing EU is in the UK’s national interest so we must build alliances with other member states to get the reforms we need.”

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Comments

Ken Mckean's picture

Who is this pratt Gidiot ? or for that matter Mike Parry ?

uk-skeptic's picture

What about reforming but still have Britain leaving?

international foundation for research and innovation  's picture

He is right it must be made strong reform in british education programme because majority of British Universities have an old and un updated education programme Because of this when students finish their studies they nobody give them a job

international foundation for research and innovation  's picture

i CAN GIVE YOU HUNDRED EXAMPLS WHY MANORITY OF UR UNIVERSITIES HAVE AN OLD AND UN UPDATED EDUCATION PROGRAMME
in 2008 when the crisis had hited USA those Universities supposed to make researches about that situation By this ocasion in order to prevent such bad situation in EU they supposed to make reaseaches in order to help EU companies to increase sales and in the same time present them a list of business opportunities which could bring high profit in short time
After this as world wild investors ,governments ,companies were worried about negative consequences which the crisis were bringing those UK Universities shoul had organized conferences about
""How cris can affect world wild companies and make dozens millions of people to lose their jobs""
As that from 2008 until today hundred of millions of people shoud had downloaded ebooks ,tools apps with 30-50 euro ,about those things amd hundred thousands people shoul had assited those conferences and paied more than 700 euro for the conference fee and touristic service ,we have here a demonstraction that because those UK Universities did not do what supposed to be done UK had lost trillions of EURO up to know

international foundation for research and innovation  's picture

I i CAN GIVE YOU HUNDRED EXAMPLS WHY MAJORITY OF UK UNIVERSITIES HAVE AN OLD AND UN UPDATED EDUCATION PROGRAMME
in the previous comment i had give you an example why majority of UK Universities have an old un updated education programme and how this have beeen affecting millions of students and compromising their carrer In some other post we wil continue giving you more an more examples until UK people will wake up and see why UK economy are losing billions of pounds and millios of UK citizens have no jobs or salaries they receive do not help them to cover their needs Why we will present those realities ?

UK IN ORDER TO GET VOTE THEY ARE MAKING PROPAGANDA USING UNEMPLOYMENT ,IN ASSOCIATIONS WITH MIGRATION ISSUE ETC In order to descouraje UK parties to use those issues in their political propaganda we will present their electors the truth about many things UK politicians are hidden them

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