Markets, politicians and ordinary people "are all under-evaluating the risk of a UK exit", said Letta. The other EU nations need to work "a good deal to convince the British to remain on board".
While the weekend German elections helped stabilise Europe by propelling Chancellor Angela Merkel to a probable third term as leader, the UK’s increasing euroscepticism is a cause for future concern, Letta said. UK Prime Minister David Cameron has promised a referendum on EU membership by the end of 2017 if a Conservative government is elected in the 2015 vote. “It is a very tough discussion and the anti-Europe party is rising”, Letta, 47, said in the interview yesterday.
While Cameron has not mentioned specific demands he could make of the EU to avoid an exit, his lawmakers have said they want powers over areas such as justice, policing and worker protection to be returned to national capitals.
Some help in that direction may come from Germany’s Merkel, whose spokesman Steffen Seibert said on September 4 that repatriation of powers was “a sensible idea". Common ground between the two nations might set up the kind of deal Letta hopes the EU can make to keep the UK in Europe, avoiding a crisis of confidence in the 28-nation union. “It’s in their own interest to stay", Letta said.
Urban Ahlin, Swedish Social Democrat Shadow Foreign Minister, told a joint Open Europe-IPPR fringe meeting at the Labour Party Conference that he believed German Chancellor Angela Merkel could agree to the return of some powers to Member States. He added that Germany needed the likes of the UK and Sweden on board in order to agree many of the changes required to stabilise the eurozone. Ahlin also said that the left should engage in the debate about how to better divide powers between Brussels and the Member States, saying that politicians had pursued levels of EU integration “people aren’t ready to accept".
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