Page last updated at 15:52 GMT, Tuesday, 15 January 2013

Cameron warned against 'killing' EU single market

A senior MEP has criticised David Cameron ahead of the British prime minister's speech on the future of Europe.

Speaking in the European Parliament on 15 January 2013, Liberal group leader Guy Verhofstadt warned that any proposal by Mr Cameron to re-negotiate the UK's role in the EU could "kill the single market".

"Let Mr Cameron be honest, the re-negotiation he wants means either a Brexit [British exit] or the end of the single market," he continued.

The debate, led by the Austrian chancellor Werner Faymann, took place three days before Mr Cameron's keynote speech in Amsterdam where he was due to set out any plans for a referendum on the UK's relationship with the EU.

Mr Faymann said that citizens were only opposed to the EU because certain politicians "try to put all the faults on the EU and claim all the benefits for themselves".

But British Conservative MEP Martin Callanan said it was "vital" to have a debate about the future of Europe.

"It's not enough to dismiss peoples' concerns as ignorance or populism," he added.

Mr Verhofstadt said the repatriation of powers could lead to the UK becoming a "second class" European country.

However, Mr Callanan countered that "it's not about first and second class countries, but a flexible model built around the single market".

David Cameron has faced pressure to hold a referendum on Europe and has been criticised by some in his own party for not doing more to get powers back from the EU to the UK.

But others have warned that the uncertainty caused by the prospect of a future referendum would jeopardise the UK's business prospects.

Useful links:

Democracy Live's guide to how the plenary sessions work.

A disclaimer on the use of simultaneous interpretations, on the European Parliament's website.

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