John Kerry says UK should remain in EU

Secretary of state says US wants a ‘strong United Kingdom, staying in a strong EU’

US secretary of state John Kerry speaks at the 52nd Security Conference in Hotel Bayrischer Hof in Munich. Photograph: Andreas Gebert/EPA

US secretary of state John Kerry speaks at the 52nd Security Conference in Hotel Bayrischer Hof in Munich. Photograph: Andreas Gebert/EPA

 

US secretary of state John Kerry has said he would like to see the United Kingdom remain part of the European Union.

Ahead of talks between EU leaders on changes to the UK’s membership which are being sought ahead of an in-out referendum promised by British prime minister David Cameron, Mr Kerry said the US wants a “strong United Kingdom, staying in a strong EU”.

He said the EU needed to stick together and cope with the “near-existential” threat spurred by the refugee crisis which has threatened the cohesion of the 28-member union.

“We are facing the gravest humanitarian crisis in Europe since World War II,” Mr Kerry said at the Munich Security Conference on Saturday. “The US understands the near- existential nature of this threat to politics and life in Europe.”

With millions of Middle Eastern and African refugees testing Europe’s ability to manage its borders, countries have been bickering over how best to deal with the issues posed by the influx of migrants.

European governments have squabbled, blamed each other, put up fences and suspended passport-free travel as they struggle to deal with the surge, driven by civil war in Syria.

Remaining united also means that the UK must remain in the EU, Mr Kerry said.

Voters will decide if the UK should leave or remain in the EU in a referendum, which is expected to be held in June.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Friday said she was becoming more confident a deal to keep Britain in the EU will be reached, but she warned more compromises may be needed on both sides.

Dr Merkel said issues such as changes to social security systems needed to be placed in a European context, not only a British concern. “The way the talks have progressed so far are putting me in a confident mood,” she said. However, she said she did not know how long negotiations would last.

Mr Cameron has said he hopes to come to an agreement with EU leaders over his plans to renegotiate Britain’s relationship with the EU at a summit next week. British and EU negotiators agreed much of a reform package on Thursday, leaving Mr Cameron to settle final issues, notably on migration, at the summit next week .

“Europe needs Great Britain and Great Britain needs Europe,” Dr Merkel said in Hamburg. The EU’s “ability to compromise” will be needed by all to resolve the package of changes Britain is seeking, she said. “

Mr Cameron, who was also in Germany, said changes he was seeking to UK membership would make Europe “more outward-looking, competitive and dynamic”.

Bloomberg/Reuters