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Video by Catherine VIETTE

Text by Tony Todd

Latest update : 2013-01-24

European leaders have reacted negatively to Prime Minister David Cameron’s announcement that he will try to renegotiate the UK’s relationship with Europe, and then give Britons a straight referendum choice on whether to stay in the EU or leave.

France will “roll out the red carpet” for British businesses if the UK opts out of the European Union in an in-out referendum promised by British Prime Minister David Cameron on Wednesday.

'Not turning our backs on Europe'

The quip was a riposte to Cameron who last year used the same phrase to welcome wealthy French tax exiles wishing to flee a proposed 75% top tax band on incomes over one million euros.

Fabius also compared the British leader’s plan to the UK joining a football club, then announcing it “wanted to play rugby” instead.

“You can’t do Europe à la carte,” he told France Info radio, adding that an exit from the EU “would be a dangerous move for the UK.”

Fabius was not the only politician to use culinary and sporting metaphor in reaction to Cameron’s speech in London on Wednesday, in which he promised to renegotiate Britain’s relationship with the EU and put it to a referendum in the next parliament if his party wins another election.

German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle said that “cherry picking” was “not an option”, while British former EU trade commissioner and veteran Labour Party minister Peter Mandelson said the EU could not be treated as “a cafeteria service where you bring your own tray and leave with what you want.”

Pressure from the eurosceptic right

Cameron, whose Conservative Party is lagging behind opposition Labour in the polls, has been accused of using the issue for his own political gain and buckling to pressure from a loud minority of eurosceptic British lawmakers within his party.

Cameron is also feeling the heat from a resurgent eurosceptic UK Independence Party (UKIP), which now enjoys around 10% public support - the same as the Conservatives’ coalition partners the pro-Europe Liberal Democrats, although the UKIP does not have any seats in the lower House of Commons.

According to a November poll in UK daily The Guardian, 56% would definitely or possibly vote to leave the bloc, against just 30% who would vote to remain.

Some 68% of Conservative voters would choose to quit, according to the survey, and 44% of Labour (Britain’s second most popular political party) voters would follow suit, against 33% wanting to stay in.

Only Liberal Democrat voters would want to remain in Europe, with 47% wanting to maintain the relationship while 39% want to opt out. 

Date created : 2013-01-23

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