LONDON (Reuters) - British Prime Minister David Cameron made no comment on the European Union’s Nobel Peace Prize win on Friday, a stark contrast to the effusion of other EU leaders and a reflection of Britain’s uneasy relationship with Europe.
Cameron is under pressure to take a tough line with Brussels to pacify eurosceptics in his Conservative party who fear it will lose votes at the 2015 election to the increasingly popular UK Independence Party, which wants Britain to quit the EU.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel and other European leaders were quick to express their pride and sense of honor when the Nobel committee announced its decision, but Cameron remained silent on the subject.
“I don’t think we’re intending on putting anything out,” a spokesman for the prime minister said after repeated requests for comment.
Britain’s Foreign Office issued a two-sentence statement several hours after the announcement.
“This award recognizes the EU’s historic role in promoting peace and reconciliation in Europe, particularly through its enlargement to Central and Eastern Europe,” it said.
By contrast, Merkel said that “the fact that the Nobel Committee has honored this idea is both a spur and an obligation, also for me in a very personal way”.
French President Francois Hollande hailed the win as an “immense honor”, while Italian Prime Minister Mario Monti spoke of the bloc as an object of admiration for the rest of the world.
Cameron says he wants Britain to remain part of the EU - Britain’s biggest trading partner - but has pledged to avoid getting entangled in costly solutions to the euro zone debt crisis and to try to claw back powers from Brussels.
Earlier in the week he backed the idea of a referendum on Britain’s relations with the EU, although he did not offer to give voters an option of calling for Britain to leave the EU.
In December, he used Britain’s veto to block an EU-wide pact designed to help the euro zone, a move that delighted the eurosceptic wing of his Conservative Party but dismayed his Liberal Democrat coalition partners and other European leaders, who eventually agreed a deal without Britain.
Back in Britain, one of the Conservative Party’s most strident eurosceptics questioned the thinking behind the committee’s decision.
“It is very sad that the Euro-establishment are so desperate to bolster the image of an institution now ridden with riots and dissension that it should be given this formerly prestigious prize,” Bill Cash said.
“It is like giving an Oscar to a box-office flop.”
(This story fixed typo in the seventh paragraph)
Reporting by Alessandra Prentice; Editing by Kevin Liffey