Cameron defends his 'in or out' EU speech


David Cameron came out fighting yesterday, insisting that his speech on Tuesday proved Britain was “looking out, not in” on Europe.

Initial reaction to his speech at the World Economic Forum at Davos in Switzerland was as cool as the alpine landscape outside, but inside the resort congress centre yesterday the British prime minister warmed up politicians and business leaders with an energetic address.

“This is not about turning our backs on Europe, quite the opposite,” he said. “This is about how we make the case for a more open, flexible Europe and how we secure the UK’s place in it.”

Growth and jobs

He was anxious to steer a “live” EU debate towards measures for growth and jobs and away from a “cost for business and source of complaint for citizens”.

This issue had become urgent because one half of EU members – the euro bloc – were moving “inexorably” towards a banking and fiscal union with “huge implications” for those not planning to join up.

And with only “wafer-thin” consent in the UK for EU integration to date, he said it would be dangerous for Britain to sit back and allow the ongoing integration debate unfold without a British voice.

The debate would not just focus on Britain’s monetary contributions to Europe, he said, but also its energy in driving the single market on, which was “tragically, still not complete”.

“I think we contribute a lot in terms of brains and ideas as well as money,” he said.

An in-or-out EU debate need not unsettle planned investment in Britain, he said, pointing to support from 56 business leaders in a letter yesterday to the Times of London.

If steered correctly the debate he wanted would make the entire EU more attractive to business and investment.

“Europe needs to change to suit the euro and to suit all of us as well,” he said. “We need to make the arguments about a flexible, open, competitive Europe, take the citizens with [us] and seek consent in a referendum.”

Mr Cameron vowed to use Britain’s G8 presidency this year to challenge international tax evasion and companies that use complicated means to avoid their fair share of tax.