UK accused of blackmail over call for EU changes
British chancellor of the exchequer George Osborne has said the European Union must change if the United Kingdom is to stay a member – a view that prompted a charge of blackmail and a cool reaction from Berlin.
On a visit to London, an ally of German chancellor Angela Merkel warned that the EU would not react well to London’s “blackmailing” attempts, an apparent reaction to Mr Osborne’s comments in Die Welt newspaper that it was the EU, not Britain, that had to change.
Gunther Krichbaum, chairman of the Bundestag European affairs committee, said British referendum plans carried a risk of isolation. Attempts to use the referendum shadow to renegotiate its EU ties would not work. “You cannot create a political future if you are blackmailing other states.”
Mr Osborne said his government was anxious for the EU to be more ambitious on areas such as the internal market for energy and services. He told Die Welt that he hoped Britain would remain in the bloc – the destination of more than half of British exports.
Mr Krichbaum’s remarks came as a leading US official on EU relations said remaining in the bloc would best preserve London’s “special relationship” with Washington.
The British government, meanwhile, sought to counter perceptions of discord with the US over Britain’s strained relations with the EU, saying US president Barack Obama supported British PM David Cameron’s drive to renegotiate EU membership.