UK's Osborne taking tougher view on EU membership: report

LONDON Mon Sep 1, 2014 9:42am EDT

Britain's Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne arrives for a meeting at Number 10 Downing Street in London September 1, 2014.   REUTERS/Luke MacGregor

Britain's Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne arrives for a meeting at Number 10 Downing Street in London September 1, 2014.

Credit: Reuters/Luke MacGregor

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LONDON (Reuters) - Britain's finance minister George Osborne's views on the European Union have hardened and he may be more open to the idea of the country leaving the bloc, according to excerpts of a book which were published on Monday.

Janan Ganesh, author of The Austerity Chancellor which was first published in 2012 and has been updated, wrote that Osborne remained a supporter of British membership of the EU.

But Osborne's views about the bloc had undergone an "unmistakable hardening" since he took office in 2010, according to The Times newspaper which began serializing the updated version of the biography on Monday.

Osborne felt that the possibility of Britain leaving the bloc was no longer unthinkable and that the situation of a big EU country which was outside the core, single-currency euro zone was in an "increasingly invidious position."

Prime Minister David Cameron has promised to hold a referendum on Britain's continued membership of the EU in 2017, if his Conservative Party wins next year's elections and if London can secure the return of some powers from Brussels.

Osborne is one of the most influential members of Cameron's cabinet. In January, he said the EU's treaties were "not fit for purpose" and that there must be reform or Britain would leave.

Ganesh said Osborne was unlikely to swap the finance ministry for the Foreign Office, as speculated by some media, but he would play a big role in attempts to renegotiate Britain's relationship with the EU after the May 2015 election.

No one was immediately available for comment at the finance ministry.

(Writing by William Schomberg; editing by Stephen Addison)

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