LONDON (Reuters) - Britain wants to reach a new settlement with the European Union as fast as possible, Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond said, the Financial Times reported on Friday.
Prime Minister David Cameron, who won an outright majority in a general election last week, has pledged to renegotiate Britain’s ties with Europe before giving voters an in-out referendum on EU membership by the end of 2017.
Hammond, speaking on the sidelines of a meeting of NATO foreign ministers in Turkey, made clear that change to the bloc’s founding treaties, which is opposed by some EU leaders, was not, in itself, a political goal for his Conservative government.
He said the timing of the renegotiation would depend “entirely on our partners”, the FT reported.
“If they enthusiastically embrace the [reform] agenda . . . we would move as fast as possible,” he said.
The FT said one option could see EU leaders issuing a decision that has binding force under international law but in effect postdates treaty change.
“That is how I want this process to end up: a good package of reforms; a ‘yes’ vote; and a step change in the way the relationship works, with Britain being really engaged and a loud voice in the union,” Hammond said.
Hammond said he aimed to support the campaign for keeping Britain in the EU.
Reporting by Guy Faulconbridge; Editing by Andrew Osborn