Analysis: U.S. trade pact offers Cameron a way to sell Europe

Thu Jan 17, 2013 10:00am EST
 

By Robin Emmott and Peter Griffiths

BRUSSELS/LONDON (Reuters) - Momentum for a trade deal between the United States and European Union is a challenge to Britons who say London is better off without Brussels and hands Prime Minister David Cameron a strong argument to resist their pressure.

Cameron will outline plans to dilute Britain's EU membership on Friday in Amsterdam in one of the most anticipated speeches on Europe by a British leader since World War Two. Diplomats in Brussels and business leaders in the UK fear he could set off a process that ends with Britain quitting the Union.

Eurosceptics in Britain say the country's future lies in trade with the dynamic economies of Latin America and Asia, at a time when the euro zone is in recession and British companies are exporting more goods outside the European Union than inside the bloc for the first time since the 1970s.

But expectations are high that Washington and Brussels will announce plans to go ahead with negotiations for an EU-U.S. trade deal later this month, encompassing half the world's economic output. That means if Britain were to leave the European Union, it would be shut out of a powerful framework for trade, underlining the EU's leading role in forging such deals on behalf of its members.

"This is a game-changer," said James Elles, a British member of the European Parliament who is among a growing number of Cameron's Conservative party members warning of the economic dangers of a British exit from the 27-nation bloc.

"The Americans and Europe are considering not only ways to generate a new wave of transatlantic growth but to set the rules of global trade before China and India do," he said.

Martin Horwood, a Liberal Democrat lawmaker in a coalition government led by Cameron's Conservatives, said leaving the European Union and missing out on a free-trade deal with the United States was "an insane risk".

Cameron, leading a party and a country where anti-European feelings are rising, says he wants Britain to remain in the bloc but to have looser links to EU institutions that many in Britain see as pernicious and overbearing.   Continued...

 
Britain's Prime Minister David Cameron leaves Number 10 Downing Street to attend Prime Minister's Questions at parliament in London January 16, 2013. REUTERS/Olivia Harris