UK minister holds EU reform talks in Paris

Britain's finance minister said on Monday he believed a "win-win" solution was possible to reform the EU ahead of his country's in-out referendum, as he kicked off a tour of European capitals.

UK minister holds EU reform talks in Paris
UK's George Osborne and France's Michel Sapin wil talk in Paris on Monday. Photo: AFP

George Osborne said after talks with French Economy Minister Emmanuel Macron: “What we are interested in is a Europe that works for all its citizens, that create jobs.”

“Mr Macron talked about a win-win deal which, I think, we can deliver,” he added.

Osborne also met counterpart Michel Sapin and was set to hold talks with Prime Minister Manuel Valls and Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius as Britain tries to drum up support for reforms to a European bloc still reeling from the Greece crisis.

The trip came after the Independent on Sunday weekly reported that the referendum on Britain's EU membership could come as soon as June 2016.

Osborne noted that the law passing through the British parliament at the moment requires the vote to take place “by the end of 2017”, but added: “If we have a deal that we can recommend to the British people before then, then of course we can have a referendum before.”

“What we are interested in is the substance of an agreement that works for all the European Union members states, that creates prosperity in the future for the continent,” Osborne said.

“What we don't want is to see individuals coming to our country and claiming our welfare entitlement.”

The trip to Paris is the first in a series of visits Osborne — a close ally of Prime Minister David Cameron — will make to various European capitals, British officials say.

Downing Street declined to comment on the Independent on Sunday report, which also said Cameron will offer more details on the timing of the closely watched vote at the annual Conservative Party conference in October.

The weekly reported Cameron had opted for an earlier poll to stop the question of Britain's membership becoming a campaign issue in French and German elections in 2017.

'Successful and stable' euro 

Recent polls have shown a majority of Britons want to stay in the EU although any referendum on the issue is expected to be tight.

US President Barack Obama said in a recent BBC interview that having top ally Britain in the EU “gives us much greater confidence about the strength of the transatlantic union.”

Surveys show that support for Britain's membership appeared to have grown as the Greek debt crisis abated.

Osborne said: “We have to make sure that the single currency and the single market are compatible, and work alongside each other.”

Given Britain's sizeable exports to the eurozone, it is in London's interest to make sure the euro is a “successful and stable” currency, the minister said.

However, “if we are going to see the eurozone integrating further, then we are also going to make sure that the interests of those who are not in the eurozone, such as the United Kingdom, are properly protected,” insisted Osborne.

For his part, Macron offered France's support to Britain staying in the European Union, saying it was “very important” to keep London in the club.

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