London’s foreign ambassadors have warned that the UK and the EU could lose global influence should Britain decide to leave the Union.
Responding to an Embassy poll based on Prime Minister David Cameron’s eagerly awaited speech on Europe, the overwhelming majority (85 per cent) said both the EU and the UK would be losers with a British exit, but some said the UK stood to lose more clout.
In his speech, the Prime Minister said the next Conservative Party manifesto would pledge to negotiate a “new settlement” for Britain in the EU, which would deliver “a more flexible, adaptable and open European Union”.
If re-elected as Prime Minister, David Cameron promised to give the British voters their say on Britain’s relationship with Europe: “When we have negotiated that new settlement, we will give the British people a referendum with a very simple in or out choice. To stay in the EU on these new terms; or come out altogether.”
But in the Embassy survey EU ambassadors were divided over whether other EU member states would be willing to enter into new discussions to repatriate powers to Britain.
A majority (57 per cent) predicted that EU partners would resist new negotiations for fear of opening up “a Pandora’s Box”.
As one EU Ambassador put it: “If Britain were to repatriate some powers from Brussels, what is to stop other countries coming forward for their own demands? That would make the EU totally unworkable.”
Nearly 30 percent of respondents thought that new discussions would be “destabilizing” for the EU, but added it could open an important debate about the future direction of the Union that could be in the “mutual interest” of both the EU and the UK.
A minority (14 per cent) felt the issue had been brought about by domestic politics and the “political storm in a teacup” would pass before significant damage could be done.
Ambassadors from all regions were unanimous that Britain added “a lot” or “quite a lot” of value to the EU and vice versa.
As US Ambassador Louis Susman recently said: “We cannot imagine a strong EU without a vibrant partner in the UK.”
A large majority of non-EU ambassadors felt that Britain’s membership of the EU added “quite a lot of value” to their own bilateral relations with the UK.
Trade and economic attachés at a recent meeting of the Association of Economic Representative in London (AERL) raised concerns that the political debate surrounding Britain’s relationship with the EU was starting to have a negative impact on businesses considering investing in the UK.