LONDON – The United States has publicly expressed concerns about Britain’s plans to renegotiate its relationship with the EU, with a senior official saying Washington favors a “strong British voice” in Europe.
The comments by Philip Gordon, the US assistant secretary for European affairs, come ahead of a major speech by Prime Minister David Cameron this month in which he is expected to promise a referendum on Britain’s membership.
“We have a growing relationship with the EU as an institution, which has an increasing voice in the world, and we want to see a strong British voice in that EU,” Gordon told journalists in London, in remarks reported in Thursday’s press.
“That is in America’s interests. We welcome an outward-looking EU with Britain in it.” Gordon warned that “referendums have often turned countries inward”, and raised concerns about the time spent discussing the EU’s structures. “Every hour at a summit spent debating the institutional make-up of the European Union is one hour less spent on how to deal with the common issues of jobs, growth and international peace around the world,” he said.
However, he stressed: “What is in the UK’s interests is up to the UK.” In his long-awaited speech later this month, Cameron is expected to set out his plans to renegotiate Britain’s relationship with the EU, including taking back powers, and to put that settlement to voters. Cameron is under intense pressure from eurosceptic members of his Conservative party, including Mayor of London Boris Johnson who called in a speech last month for a purely trade-based relationship with Brussels.
But Cameron’s plans have raised concerns among British business leaders, who wrote him an open letter on Wednesday warning that a renegotiation of membership risked an exit from Europe, with “damaging” consequences for the economy.
Following Gordon’s comments, a spokesman for Cameron’s Downing Street office insisted: “The US wants an outward-looking EU with Britain in it, and so do we”