Van Rompuy tells Britain leaving EU "does not come for free"

LONDON Thu Feb 28, 2013 12:59pm EST

European Council President Herman Van Rompuy attends a debate on the EU's long-term budget at the EU parliament in Brussels February 18, 2013. REUTERS/Eric Vidal

European Council President Herman Van Rompuy attends a debate on the EU's long-term budget at the EU parliament in Brussels February 18, 2013.

Credit: Reuters/Eric Vidal

LONDON (Reuters) - European Council President Herman Van Rompuy cautioned Britain on Thursday that leaving the European Union does not come for free and said the bloc's leaders do not want to change any treaties.

Van Rompuy said Britain should play a central role in building the European economy. He said EU leaders neither feared nor liked Britain's attempt to redefine its relationship with the European Union.

"Leaving the club altogether, as a few advocate, is legally possible - we have an 'exit clause' - but it's not a matter of just walking out. It would be legally and politically a most complicated and unpractical affair. Just think of a divorce after forty years of marriage.

"Leaving is an act of free will and perfectly legitimate but it doesn't come for free," he said in a speech at the Guildhall in the City of London.

"How do you convince a room full of people when you keep your hand of the door handle?" he asked. "Changing the EU treaties is not the priority."

"Your views resonate with many countries; with them, Britain can play an absolutely central part in making Europe's economy fit for the future. The role is yours to take," he said.

(Reporting by Guy Faulconbridge; Editing by Hugh Lawson)

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Comments (4)
DR9WX wrote:
Is the bald, old and fragile looking man threatening the British, The Scottish, the Irish and the Welsh?

That’s fighting talk where I’m from. Who the hell is he anyway? Surely, European Council President means nothing. If it does mean something I am sure the Greeks, Spanish, Italian and soon French people will be wanting a word.

Feb 28, 2013 1:11pm EST  --  Report as abuse
thorpeman wrote:
No one ever elected this bald headed clown, what does he think he’s at lecturing & threatening a country that runs a £65 billion trading deficit with the EU not to mention the net contribution of 10 Billion to bolster the EU jam butty mountain. Now if he’s talking threats & Tariffs that’s all good with us, you see our exports such as wings & engines for their planes at airbus are hardly items that can be sourced elsewhere any time soon but food & yogurt can be sourced cheaper & fresher from none EU countries & reciprocal tariffs on EU goods would hit EU suppliers a whole lot more than it would our domestic market which just happens to be about the only expanding Car market which Herr Merkel won’t want any barriers to.

Feb 28, 2013 1:59pm EST  --  Report as abuse
MickyG63 wrote:
DR9WX. If my first comment doesn’t get published then here is a less volatile version. I am English, not British. If you can refer to the Welsh, Scots and Irish as to what they are – Welsh, Scottish and Irish – then we English deserve the same respect. We are a distinct people in our own right too. ‘British’ is nothing more than a political non identity – and it’s not my identity. We English are English – and no, I do not recognise the nonsense known as civic Englishness either. As to this bald-headed non entity, well we’ll leave the EU if that is our wish – and it’s certainly mine – and his threats will have no bearing on the matter.

Mar 01, 2013 6:25am EST  --  Report as abuse
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