Cameron defies critics, says EU referendum won’t harm UK economy

Cameron defies critics, says EU referendum won’t harm UK economy
British Prime Minister David Cameron has hit out against EU supporters, claiming the UK would not stay in Europe unconditionally.

He also rejected claims that holding a referendum on UK membership would hurt the economy, in stark contrast opposition leader Ed Miliband.

Speaking at the Confederation of British Industry (CBI) conference on Monday, Cameron said despite recent debates on the UK’s position in Europe, and fierce criticism of the EU, investment into the country was still high.

“The worst thing for us to do as a country is to pretend this European debate isn’t happening … If there has been uncertainty, why is it that this has been such an extraordinary period of investment into this country?” he told conference delegates.

The Prime Minister also said the UK needed to be involved in reforming the EU, and that more focus should be placed on making the common market more open, rather than aiming for a strong political union.

“Britain’s future in Europe matters to our country and it isn’t working properly at the moment and that is why we need to make changes,” he said.

“I agree with what the CBI has said: we should be looking for a reformed European Union. Now I am the politician who has the plan for that reform; who wants to see the single market safeguarded and not have us ordered around by the single-currency countries.”

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Leader of the British opposition Labour Party Ed Miliband (AFP Photo/Justin Tallis)

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The statements come despite warnings from Labour leader Ed Miliband that “flirting” with an EU exit would put jobs at risk. He warned delegates that such measures were a “clear and present” danger to British economic growth, as it would deter investors from placing their money in the UK.

Cameron’s remarks follow statements by Home Secretary Theresa May that Britain’s economy is “being held back” by red tape from Brussels.

“While access to the world’s biggest single market is in our national interest, the EU’s rules and regulations hold back not just our economy, but also the economies of every other member state,” she wrote in the Sunday Telegraph.

Fierce debates about Britain’s place in Europe have been a recurring staple of British politics, and is an issue that has severely shaken the Conservative Party ahead of next year’s general election.

While senior members of the cabinet have expressed their desire to stay in a ‘reformed EU’, the Prime Minister faces calls from backbenchers to promise an early referendum in 2015.

Earlier this week, Chancellor George Osborne was forced to defend the £850mn bill the UK is due to pay toward the EU budget.

While he touted the seemingly reduced rate as a victory, claiming he had negotiated the contribution down from £1.7bn, Labour and UKIP figures were keen to accuse him of playing politics, suggesting Osborne had simply brought the UK’s rebate entitlement forward.

ICYMI