* Britain wants to renegotiate EU ties, repatriate powers
* PM Cameron has threatened to use veto on EU
* German parliament Europe committee criticises plan
By Mohammed Abbas
LONDON, Jan 10 The head of the German
parliament's influential European Union Affairs Committee warned
Britain on Thursday against trying to "blackmail" other
countries in its push to fashion a new relationship with Europe.
Gunther Krichbaum, an ally of Chancellor Angela Merkel, also
said British Prime Minister David Cameron risked isolating the
UK and paralysing European integration if he held a referendum
on relations with the European Union.
The comments were the second significant foreign
intervention over Cameron's EU strategy in two days after the
United States on Wednesday said it wanted Britain to remain in
the 27-member bloc.
Cameron is expected to deliver a major speech on Britain's
EU ties later this month and is already under intense pressure
from his own Conservative party and increasingly eurosceptic
voters to repatriate powers from Brussels or leave the EU
He has repeatedly threatened to veto EU initiatives he does
not see as being in Britain's interest and has hinted he could
use such threats as a bargaining chip to achieve his aims.
"You cannot create a political future if you are
blackmailing other states. That will not help Britain. It needs
a Europe that is stable. It needs markets that are functioning,"
said Krichbaum, leading a delegation from his committee on a
two-day visit to Britain.
"In the broader sense of negotiating a new treaty, it is
neither wise nor useful to open Pandora's box, because every
state in the EU, not just Britain, would again try to get their
interests in," Krichbaum added.
Cameron says he wants Britain to remain in the bloc, a major
trading partner, but insists he is entitled to renegotiate
Britain's position given that other EU states are redefining
ties as they seek to integrate in response to the eurozone debt
Asked on Sunday whether this meant that if he did not
succeed in repatriating powers he would block other EU reforms,
Cameron said it was a "perfectly acceptable argument" to say
that, as the rest of the EU makes changes, Britain would like
Cameron hopes to present a renegotiated deal to the British
public to seek their "fresh consent", probably in a referendum
after the next general election in 2015.
Krichbaum criticised the strategy. "There is certainly a
risk that this question could paralyse efforts for a better
Europe and deeper integration. Britain would risk being
isolated. That cannot be in Britain's interests," he said.
The comment echoed a warning from the United States on
Wednesday that a vote on EU membership risked turning the
Krichbaum's committee has held talks with British lawmakers,
and is visiting London to gauge the mood on Europe and make
clear it thinks Britain is better off in the EU.
Committee members said it would be more difficult for
Britain to negotiate a good trade deal with the United States
outside the EU. Britain is currently pushing for an EU-U.S. free
"I sometimes hear the sentiment that even if Britain left
the EU it could still easily have free trade agreements with
other states," Krichbaum said.
"I would be cautious in this regard: when the whole EU
negotiates a free trade agreement, its position is much more
powerful than if only one single country negotiates," he added.