Political rivals in Britain unite to combat EU "Brexit" threat

LONDON Wed Jan 30, 2013 3:52pm GMT

The EU and the Union flags fly outside The European Commission Representation in the United Kingdom in central London January 23, 2013. REUTERS/Stefan Wermuth

The EU and the Union flags fly outside The European Commission Representation in the United Kingdom in central London January 23, 2013.

Credit: Reuters/Stefan Wermuth

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LONDON (Reuters) - Political rivals joined forces on Wednesday to launch a campaign to keep Britain inside the European Union, aiming to turn back a rising tide of animosity towards Brussels that threatens to end its 40-year membership of the bloc.

Politicians of different stripes decided to pool their efforts after Prime Minister David Cameron last week promised to renegotiate Britain's EU membership terms and give voters a chance to say whether they want to leave.

The Centre for British Influence Through Europe (CBIE), a cross-party group that lobbies to keep Britain inside the EU, said it hoped to convince voters that its stance was the "common sense" option in the barrage of rhetoric on Europe.

And two of Cameron's senior ministers urged a "political fightback" against growing calls for Britain to claw back powers from its biggest trading partner or leave it altogether.

Ken Clarke, a Conservative cabinet minister, and Treasury Minister Danny Alexander, of the pro-EU Lib Dems, the junior coalition partner, will speak at the group's launch later on Wednesday. They will be joined by Peter Mandelson, a former Labour minister and ex-EU trade commissioner.

"It is fundamentally defeatist to contend that Britain is forever isolated and without a vision in Europe," the group's director Peter Wilding said in a statement.

Britain's long debate pits pro-EU forces who see Europe as a crucial trade partner and source of stability after World War Two against eurosceptics angry with what they see as a meddling and wasteful Brussels bureaucracy that threatens UK sovereignty.

Cameron said last week that his party would campaign for the 2015 parliamentary election on a pledge to renegotiate the terms of Britain's EU membership. He said an "in our out" referendum on the country's membership of the bloc would then be held by the end of 2017 - provided he wins a second term.

While both sides have begun making their case on Europe, a referendum is still far from certain to take place. Cameron must come from behind in opinion polls to win the election, decide which powers he wants to reclaim from Brussels and then overcome European opposition to negotiate their return.

'NO CHERRY-PICKING'

German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle underlined the scale of Cameron's task of securing opt-outs from EU rules in an article on Wednesday in which he told Britain: "There can be no cherry-picking."

"We might be conjuring up forces that we can't control," he wrote in the Times newspaper. "We must not put at risk the common ground that we have achieved in more than half a century of European co-operation."

The CBIE will stress the importance of closer ties with Berlin, Brussels and Paris to give Britain a louder voice in the world and to help its trading position.

The campaign was due to be launched at Europe House, an office building which is the London base of the European Commission as well as the UK Independence Party, the anti-EU group which is siphoning off voters from Cameron's Conservatives.

A stone's throw from parliament, it was for years the office of the Conservatives - a party whose divisions over Europe led to Margaret Thatcher's downfall.

(Editing by Pravin Char)

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Comments (14)
thorpeman wrote:
What hits the mind with Mandelson is that he was forced to resign from Government on more than one occasion & strange mortgage dealings not to mention the irregular visa arrangements for his partner. What I associate Ken Clarke with is his burning desire to lock us into the Euro. He’s my constituency MP & I was hoping the boundary changes would go through so we could get rid of him. Danny Alexander will be lucky to get his seat at the next election as the Liberals are as popular as TB

Jan 30, 2013 3:25pm GMT  --  Report as abuse
pavlaki wrote:
If, as I expect, Europe sees reason then a new vision for the EU will emerge and most British people will be happy with this. What the EU needs to come to terms with is how a Euro zone inner group, who want political union, are going to fit with a looser EU. This is the real question.

Jan 30, 2013 4:13pm GMT  --  Report as abuse
finchley wrote:
UK rednecks, including all UKIP supporters, do not distinguish between the EU, the ECJ and the ECHR. However they are all too happy to support the UK/USA extradition treaty. Such attitudes are aroused by the UK Press, largely domiciled in tax havens (Mail in the Bahamas, Telegraph in Monaco, Sun and Times in intermediate tax havens and Express in Bishops Avenue and elsewhere).

Little wonder that all we hear are rabble-rousers who really don’t want to hear any idea of the truth and who are still living in Tudor times. They might just like to remember that all UK sovereigns after the Stuarts were solid burgers from Holland and northern Germany, both countries are part of the EU. Also the forebears of UKIP supporters and most UK press proprietors, who fought in the First World War, would be horrified that UK animosity was still so rampant.

The Press proprietors merely want weak government so that they can continue to manipulate their power and limit their taxes. So I just hope that the likes of thorpeman will be happy to pay extra taxes in the future.

Jan 30, 2013 5:23pm GMT  --  Report as abuse
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