Former PM Blair questions EU departure

Jan. 29, 2013 at 2:35 PM
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LONDON, Jan. 29 (UPI) -- The British government may spur reforms in the European Union by playing a key role, not leaving the bloc, said former British Prime Minister Tony Blair.

British Prime Minister David Cameron last week expressed concern that frustration with policies envisioned or enacted by EU leaders was growing 40 years after London joined the European community. He said his constituents would "have their say" on EU membership in a referendum scheduled after national elections in 2015.

"It is time for us to settle this question about Britain and Europe," he said.

Blair told online German news magazine Der Speigel that leaving the European community was counterintuitive for the British. He said he agreed with Cameron's position that European reforms were needed but disagreed with a decision to leave the bloc.

"I have difficulties with the notion that we commit now to putting a referendum question with an out option," he said. "We in Britain should play an important part in shaping this new Europe."

European Parliament President Martin Schulz said Cameron's speech was unlikely to impress any of London's partners in the European community. The announcement, he said, was part of a "dangerous game" Cameron was playing for political reasons.

"It is not good for Britain, never mind if it's good for Europe, for us to question our membership in the EU," noted Blair.

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