Cameron to tackle thorny issue of Europe

Last Updated: Thu, Jan 17, 2013 14:30 hrs

Prime Minister David Cameron will make a long awaited speech on how he thinks Britain's relationship with the EU should change, a move that many fear could backfire and leave Britain increasingly isolated in Europe.

Britain's relationship with the European Union has been fraught since the creation of the bloc.

Several Conservative leaders ahead of Cameron, including Margaret Thatcher and John Major, have all tried to carve out more sovereignty for Britain inside the EU.

The question is whether Cameron's speech Friday will answer how he proposes renegotiating Britain's relationship with the EU and whether that bartering will result in Britain's ultimate exit from the bloc.

Many view the speech, which will be delivered in the Netherlands, as an attempt to shore up support from euroskeptics in Cameron's Conservative Party. But with the EU largely focused on stemming its debt crisis, playing to internal politics could backfire and anger nations like Germany, which has taken a lead in untangling Europe's economic woes.

"The U.K. at the moment is marginalizing itself in the European debate," said Fabian Zuleeg, chief economist at the Brussels-based European Policy Center think tank. "The debate is very Britain centric, there is very little consideration of what other countries might think about this."

A chorus of international voices from Brussels to Berlin has been quick to stress the importance of Britain's presence in the EU and offer thinly veiled warnings about potential consequences.

Even the U.S., which normally stays out of disputes among EU states, has weighed in on the debate.

"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," said Philip Gordon, U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for European Affairs. "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."


Associated Press writers Danica Kirka in London, Raf Casert in Brussels and Frank Jordans in Berlin contributed to this report.

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