Without Britain, there is no European Union, Finland’s finance minister said today (24 August) in a boost for his British counterpart George Osborne as he toured Scandinavia to drum up support for London’s push to reform the 28-nation bloc.
Prime Minister David Cameron’s Conservative government, reelected for a five-year term in May, aims to renegotiate the terms of Britain’s EU membership and then put the settlement to a national in-out referendum by the end of 2017.
“Our take is very simple, without the United Kingdom there is no European Union … That is why we have to take into consideration the concerns that the British government has put forward,” Finnish Finance Minister Alexander Stubb told reporters after meeting Osborne.
“It would be a travesty to both, for Europe and the UK, were the UK to leave the union.”
Osborne said he would use his one-day trip to Finland, Sweden and Denmark to focus on protecting the rights of non-euro nations as the 19 countries that use the common currency press on with closer economic integration.
Stubb, one of the most outspoken finance ministers in the eurozone, gave Osborne his support.
“You cannot leave the biggest economies which are not in the euro zone outside the decision-making procedure,” he said.
The finance minister of Sweden, which like Britain is not in the euro zone, also stressed the importance of protecting EU countries outside the currency bloc and the need to avoid a British exit from the EU.
Magdalena Andersson said: “As a non-euro country I can see lots of good things in having another large country that is also a non-euro member … of course we (will) work constructively in those discussions that will be coming.”
Osborne, who last month travelled to Paris to discuss EU reform, said he believed it would be possible to reach a deal on one of the central elements of Britain’s plans — curbing welfare payments to EU migrants arriving in Britain.
“From the conversations I have had generally there is going to be room for agreement and room for finding a way forward,” said Osborne, who is due to meet Denmark’s Prime Minister Lars Lokke Rasmussen and Finance Minister Claus Frederiksen later.
Britain’s governing Conservative Party won an absolute majority in the UK general election on 7 May 2015. With 12 more MPs than the other parties combined, the Conservatives no longer have to rely on a coalition partner.
Prime Minister David Cameron promised to renegotiate the UK's relations with the European Union. The renegotiation will be followed by a referendum by the end of 2017, to decide whether or not the United Kingdom should remain in the EU.
If he achieves the reforms, Cameron will campaign to stay in. Otherwise, the Conservatives might campaign to leave the EU. This decision could have far-reaching consequences for trade, investment and Great Britain's position on the international scene.
Some other European countries are ready to listen to Cameron's concerns on issues such as immigration, and may be prepared to make limited concessions to keep Britain in the bloc.
But EU leaders also have their red lines, and have ruled out changing fundamental EU principles, such as the free movement of workers, and a ban on discriminating between workers from different EU states.
>> Read our LinksDossier: The UK's EU referendum: On the path to Brexit?