George Osborne sets out what the UK hopes to achieve from its EU renegotiation, saying that countries that are not members of the euro should not be discriminated against.
Ahead of the in/out referendum on EU membership, the Chancellor said in a speech in Germany that taxpayers in non-euro states should not have to contribute if members of the single currency experience financial difficulties.
He also said that while Germany was comfortable with the concept of “ever closer union”, this was only backed by a “tiny proportion of voters” in the UK, and argued that this was “the cause of some of the strains between Britain and our European partners”.
His comments come shortly before David Cameron publishes a detailed list setting out the changes the UK wants to see from the renegotiation.The government knows that Germany is key to achieving this new deal.
Mr Osborne said he was going further than ever before in setting out what Britain wanted from the EU and was prepared to do for the EU.
He said the UK was not seeking new vetoes or opt-outs and would not stand in the way of euro members integrating further.
Speaking to German business leaders in Berlin, Mr Osborne said: “We want Britain to remain in a reformed European Union, but it needs to be a European Union that works better for all the citizens of Europe and works better for Britain too.
“What we seek are principles embedded in EU law and binding on EU institutions that safeguard the operation of the Union for all 28 member states.”
He said there needed to be a “recognition that the EU has more than one currency and we should not discriminate against any business on the basis of the currency of the country in which they reside”.
If euro members decided closer integration was needed, this should happen “in a way that does not damage the interests of non-euro members”.
Mr Osborne said: “We must never let taxpayers in countries that are not in the euro bear the cost for supporting countries in the eurozone.”
Shadow chancellor John McDonnell said the chancellor was engaged in a “meaningless publicity stunt” because he was “demanding powers of veto that we already have”.
He added: “These conditions are all straw men that the Chancellor wants to then knock down and claim victory to a home audience.”
The UK government is committed to holding its referendum by the end of 2017. But the Scottish government has said Scotland should not be bound by a vote for withdrawal if England votes for this but Scotland votes to remain a member.