UK's Cameron risks "dangerous gamble" on EU

Wed Jan 16, 2013 3:54pm EST
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By Tim Castle

LONDON (Reuters) - British Prime Minister David Cameron will be taking a "dangerous gamble" if tries to win concessions from the European Union by exploiting a crisis among the bloc's euro zone nations, one of his senior ministers said on Thursday.

Cameron, under pressure from euroskeptic legislators within his Conservative party, will make a long-anticipated speech on Friday detailing his plans to renegotiate Britain's relationship with the 27-nation bloc.

He is expected to offer Britons a referendum on any new settlement he can secure in return for assenting to further integration among EU countries that use the single currency.

Business Secretary Vince Cable, from Cameron's pro-EU Liberal Democrat coalition partners, warned that this was a risky strategy that could easily backfire and leave Britain worse off.

"There are many in Europe, notably in France, who would be happy to see the back of the UK ... and even the UK's allies on market reform, notably Germany, have limited political capital to spend getting a more favorable arrangement for the UK," he said.

"That seems to me a dangerous gamble to make," he said, according to extracts of a speech to a business audience released in advance.

"It is totally unclear whether the other members of the EU will be willing to negotiate new terms for the UK and on what basis," he added.

Cable's warning comes as political and business leaders increasingly voice concerns over the risk of calling a referendum that could see Britain leaving the EU.   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