Tuesday 16 January 2018

David Cameron insists Britain won’t leave EU but rules out joining euro

Daniel Bentley and Jennifer Cockerell

THE UK was "better off" being part of the EU but would "never" join the euro, David Cameron insisted today.

But the British Prime Minister said he wanted to see changes being made to "find a Europe that suits us better".

Mr Cameron is expected to use a major policy speech next week to set out details of a new EU "settlement" he wants to negotiate to repatriate some sovereign powers from Brussels.

Asked about the issue during an appearance on TV this morning, Mr Cameron said: "I think we're better off in the EU."

But he added: "I'm not happy and the British public isn't happy with every aspect.

"We're going to use this process of change to find a Europe that suits us better.

"We're never going to join the single currency."

His comments came as Communities Secretary Eric Pickles became the second Cabinet minister in recent days to raise the prospect of Britain leaving the European Union.

Amid deepening divisions in the Conservative Party over the issue, Mr Pickles said the UK should not remain a member "at any price".

"If it's in our clear national interest that we should remain in the European Union - and I sincerely hope that is the case - then we should stay, but we shouldn't stay at any price," he said.

Mr Pickles insisted he was principally concerned about standing up for what is best for Britain, rather than the interests of his party.

"It shouldn't be something that becomes a yardstick of some kind of new faith," he said.

"It should be really about 'Is it in the national interest?'.

"Not 'Is it in the interest of the Conservative Party or the Labour Party or Liberal Democrats or trade unions'. Whether it's in the national interest or not."

His intervention echoes that of Chancellor George Osborne, who said last week that the EU "must change" if Britain is to remain a member of the EU.

Mr Cameron is caught in the middle of an increasingly ill-tempered row over the issue as others in his party warn that leaving the EU would be highly damaging.

Cabinet minister Ken Clarke is to share a platform with Labour peer Lord Mandelson later this month to stress the benefits of remaining in the union.

The pair are launching a new cross-party organisation, the Centre for British Influence through Europe (CBIE), to make the "patriotic" case for British engagement.

And around 20 Tory MPs have also apparently signed a letter, due to be published this week, warning of "massive damage" if the UK leaves the EU.

Tory backbencher Robert Buckland, who has organised the pro-membership letter, said he had been informed that No 10 regarded his efforts as "helpful".

"The danger for the Tories is that because the right-wing Eurosceptics are making the most noise, we could slide towards the exit door of the EU," he said.

"The Prime Minister is a Euro-realist. He wants us to stay in the EU while having a debate about the terms of our membership, but it must not be used as a Trojan horse to get us to leave."

Another Conservative "Big Beast", Lord Heseltine, waded into the row yesterday by warning that the economy would suffer if Mr Cameron took a "punt" next week and committed to a referendum on membership.

Mr Cameron is also under pressure from his Liberal Democrat coalition partners and Labour to avoid leading Britain towards the EU exit door.

Business leaders including Richard Branson have warned that uncertainty about the UK's place in the EU is harmful and, in an unusual intervention last week, senior US diplomat Philip Gordon openly stated that America wanted Britain to remain in the EU.

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