Britons wary of Cameron, distrust Europe more

LONDON Fri Dec 9, 2011 7:01pm GMT

Britain's Prime Minister David Cameron arrives at an European Union summit in Brussels December 8, 2011. REUTERS/Francois Lenoir

Britain's Prime Minister David Cameron arrives at an European Union summit in Brussels December 8, 2011.

Credit: Reuters/Francois Lenoir

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LONDON (Reuters) - Some Britons may suspect his motives but they also believe Prime Minister David Cameron did the right thing in saying "no" to closer European integration.

Many suspect he may have been swayed by a desire to placate angry Conservative party right-wingers, but outright hostility towards Europe crosses the party divide.

"We should go the whole hog and get out (of Europe) looking at what the euro has done to Europe," said Tim Banks, a 42-year-old IT worker, who has traditionally voted for Labour.

"It was supposed to have been better for trade, but it has destroyed countries. Good on Cameron."

His colleague Craig Harrison, 35, suggested it was inevitable that Britain would leave Europe, by mutual consent.

"Europe has not been happy with us for a long time because we have been stuck-up about the euro," he told Reuters in London, drawing on a cigarette and wearing no coat against the chill wind.

Cameron told European Union leaders meeting to discuss the euro zone crisis in Brussels that he could not accept proposed amendments to the EU treaty after failing to secure concessions for London's financial district.

It left Europe divided, with the real prospect of Briton isolated in a two-speed European Union.

Britons quizzed by Reuters as they took a break on a cold winter's morning in London on Friday said the nearby financial district should be protected because it supports hundreds of thousands of jobs.

However, there was not universal backing for Cameron's hard-ball tactics.

Richard Rhys, a business consultant, said that although "emotionally everybody wants out" now was not the right time.

Sitting at a mobile coffee stand, he said "tactically (Cameron) could have been more subtle," and questioned whether his actions would help Britain in the long-run.

"Fundamentally, we rely on exports to Europe," the 38-year-old said. "An awful lot of jobs are embedded in our relationship with Europe and to put up barriers to trade could be damaging.

"To say you are protecting the City from the world is egomaniacal. How can we stop Europe genuinely affecting what happens in the UK?"

But that was a minority view of the move by Cameron, a former public relations executive who took power in May 2010 at the head of a coalition preaching austerity.

"I can't fault him," Michael Clarke, 50, a cable installation supervisor, dressed in a yellow hard hat, said as he waited to load a van.

"Although he's full of spin, it's one of the most decent things he's done."

Karlene Clarke, a 28-year-old who works in human resources, said: "He's a bit of a dodgy character, and I feel he's done it for the Tory party and the general audience, but I would prefer to be on the sidelines. We are in the right place."

Britain has always appeared a reluctant member of the EU since signing up in 1973, and is not part of the single currency.

Cameron's Conservative Party has traditionally been eurosceptic, with a restive minority wishing a return to the days when previous leader Margaret Thatcher took the battle to Europe.

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