David Cameron: UK Could Drift towards EU Exit

January 18, 2013, Friday // 01:13
Bulgaria: David Cameron: UK Could Drift towards EU Exit
UK Prime Minister David Cameron. Photo by EPA/BGNES

The UK could "drift towards" exiting the EU if problems are not addressed, David Cameron is set to warn.

The prime minister postponed a long-awaited speech to Dutch business leaders, which was to deal with UK's relationship with Europe. The delay was in response to the hostage crisis in Algeria and concerns over the fate of the British nationals held there.

No new date has yet been set for the speech.

In extracts released in advance and seen by BBC, Cameron said he wanted to set out a "positive vision" for the future of the EU in which Britain would play a part.

Extracts from Cameron's speech released on Thursday night reveal he had intended to set out a "positive vision for the future of the European Union. A future in which Britain wants, and should want, to play a committed and active part".

He planned to stress the EU's structures were undergoing "fundamental change", adding:

"There is a gap between the EU and its citizens which has grown dramatically in recent years and which represents a lack of democratic accountability and consent that is - yes - felt particularly acutely in Britain."

"If we don't address these challenges, the danger is that Europe will fail and the British people will drift towards the exit," he was to say.

"I do not want that to happen. I want the European Union to be a success and I want a relationship between Britain and the EU that keeps us in it."

According to Cameron, the austerity measures taken to deal with the crisis in the eurozone have given added urgency to the issue of the EU's democratic legitimacy.

"People are increasingly frustrated that decisions taken further and further away from them mean their living standards are slashed through enforced austerity or their taxes are used to bail out governments on the other side of the continent," he was intending to argue.

"And yes, of course, we are seeing this frustration with the EU very dramatically in Britain. Europe's leaders have a duty to hear these concerns. And we have a duty to act on them."

"More of the same," was not the answer Cameron was set to say, adding: "That will make our countries weaker, not stronger."

It also emerged that US President Obama had renewed pressure on Cameron over Britain remaining a member of the European Union. Details of a phone call with the prime minister on Thursday were released by the White House.

A spokesman said: "The president underscored our close alliance with the United Kingdom and said that the United States values a strong UK in a strong European Union, which makes critical contributions to peace, prosperity, and security in Europe and around the world."

Speaking on Wednesday, Cameron suggested the British public would be asked to "give their consent" to any changes that emerge from future negotiations and their verdict would "settle the issue once and for all".


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