Britain's Cameron appeals to EU reform doubters at home, abroad

Updated: 2015-11-10 20:22


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Cameron appealed to EU governments for understanding, saying none of his demands were "outlandish or absurd", and tried to appease Eurosceptics, including some in his Conservative Party, which has been divided over the EU for decades.

"I must be very, very clear. I don't want this reasonable approach to be misunderstood. Reasonable does not mean lacking in resolve," he said.

"I understand, of course that every negotiation must involve just that - negotiation. But Britain is the second biggest economy in the EU. We are the second biggest contributor to the EU budget. Along with France, we are its foremost military power. We gain from the Union, but we bring a lot to it."

He underlined that Britain had helped the EU form a strong response to the conflict in Syria and in launching sanctions against Russian officials over the Ukraine crisis.

But he balanced that with what Britons got from the EU, saying the country's economic security and national security was closely connected to its membership of the bloc.

"Today as we confront fresh threats and dangers to our country, I am in no doubt that for Britain, the European question is not just about economic security but national security too," he said.

The British leader used the speech to give his strongest warning yet that Britain will leave if its people vote that way and that there would be no second chances.

The French daily, Liberation, called his threats: "EU exit: Cameron's blackmail" - a feeling shared by some other European officials.

But Britain's Eurosceptics were quick to criticise the prime minister for setting his sights too low in the renegotiation.

Nigel Farage, the leader of the UK Independence Party, said Cameron was not aiming for anything "substantial".

"His speech was an attempt to portray a new 'third way' relationship with Brussels that is simply not on offer," he said in a statement.

Most Britons say they will vote to stay in the European Union, according to opinion polls so far, but the gap has narrowed between the "Yes" and "No" camps largely driven by fears over migration after thousands have arrived on EU shores.

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