HELSINKI/STOCKHOLM (Reuters) - Without Britain, there is no European Union, Finland’s finance minister said on Monday in a boost for his British counterpart George Osborne as he toured Scandinavia to drum up support for London’s push to reform the 28-nation bloc.
Prime Minister David Cameron’s Conservative government, re-elected for a five-year term in May, aims to renegotiate the terms of Britain’s EU membership and then put the settlement to a national in-out referendum by the end of 2017.
“Our take is very simple, without the United Kingdom there is no European Union ... That is why we have to take into consideration the concerns that the British government has put forward,” Finnish Finance Minister Alexander Stubb told reporters after meeting Osborne.
“It would be a travesty to both, for Europe and the UK, were the UK to leave the union.”
Osborne said he would use his one-day trip to Finland, Sweden and Denmark to focus on protecting the rights of non-euro nations as the 19 countries that use the common currency press on with closer economic integration.
Stubb, one of the most outspoken finance ministers in the euro zone, gave Osborne his support.
“You cannot leave the biggest economies which are not in the euro zone outside the decision-making procedure,” he said.
The finance minister of Sweden, which like Britain is not in the euro zone, also stressed the importance of protecting EU countries outside the currency bloc and the need to avoid a British exit from the EU.
Magdalena Andersson said: “As a non-euro country I can see lots of good things in having another large country that is also a non-euro member ... of course we (will) work constructively in those discussions that will be coming.”
Osborne, who last month travelled to Paris to discuss EU reform, said he believed it would be possible to reach a deal on one of the central elements of Britain’s plans — curbing welfare payments to EU migrants arriving in Britain.
“From the conversations I have had generally there is going to be room for agreement and room for finding a way forward,” said Osborne, who is due to meet Denmark’s Prime Minister Lars Lokke Rasmussen and Finance Minister Claus Frederiksen later.
Additional reporting by Kylie MacLellan and William Schomberg in London, Writing by Kylie MacLellan, Editing by Janet Lawrence