PARIS (Reuters) - The head of the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC) is not confident UK Prime Minister David Cameron can obtain meaningful reforms of the European Union before a referendum on a possible exit from the bloc, he told a French newspaper.
In an interview with Le Figaro, Director General John Longworth said the business network did not rule out calling for a British exit - or Brexit - from the EU should Cameron fail to get EU countries to agree to British businesses' demands.
"History has showed politicians' capacity to present cosmetic changes as major ones to reach their goals," Longworth said in comments in French set to be published in Tuesday's edition.
He said the referendum should be held as soon as possible, preferably next year instead of 2017 as advocated by Cameron.
Britons who want to quit the European Union have overtaken those who want to stay for the first time in months, according to an opinion poll published on Sunday. And Euroskeptic members of Cameron's on party are on the brink of rebellion over the referendum.
"The European Union is getting further away from us. The single market was conceived for German industries and French farmers," the BCC's director general said.
Longworth said the chambers of commerce wanted Britain to get a veto on EU social regulations, such as employees' working hours, and the end of the EU's objective of "ever closer union".
Some 55 percent of BCC members want to remain in the single market and 65 percent think that leaving it would cause troubles, Longworth said.
Reporting by Michel Rose, editing by Larry King