* Weidmann says Britain gets economic lift from EU
* German central bank head - further EU centralisation not
* Remarks underscore nervousness about Britain leaving EU
By Marc Jones
LONDON, July 23 The head of the Bundesbank
appealed to Britain on Wednesday to stay in the European Union,
saying membership of the bloc had given the country an economic
lift and posed little threat to London.
In a speech to business people and bankers in central
London, Jens Weidmann broke the central bank's traditional
silence on political questions, saying the European Union would
benefit if Britain "continues to make its voice heard".
"The EU is stronger today because of Britain's contribution
to it," Weidmann said, adding that the country's trade with EU
neighbours had been boosted by more than half because of its
membership of the bloc.
"As much as the UK gains from being part of the EU, so the
EU gains from having the UK as a member," he said.
Weidmann's comments underscore the growing sense of
nervousness about the possibility of Britain dropping out of the
group of 28 countries that share common rules and club together
to negotiate on issues such as trade.
While noting former British Prime Minister Margaret
Thatcher's original eurosceptic warning about the European
Union, Weidmann sought to calm fears about a federal-style
Europe, saying more centralisation of power was not necessary.
"Improving the workings of the European Union does not
automatically require stronger centralisation," he said.
The remarks were in a similar vein to those made by
Germany's finance minister, Wolfgang Schaeuble.
Yet Weidmann's comments, coming from one of the most
prominent central bankers in the euro zone, will have little
impact on the debate in Britain, which wishes not only to stay
outside the euro but also to change its terms of EU membership.
British Prime Minister David Cameron has promised to
renegotiate these terms and hold an "in-out" referendum if
re-elected in 2015, raising fears the world's sixth-largest
economy could quit the club it joined in 1973.
Amid rising anti-EU rhetoric across Britain, relations
between London and its European neighbours are already
deteriorating. Cameron was recently isolated among his EU peers,
for instance, in his attempt to derail Jean-Claude Juncker's bid
to become president of the European Commission.
The situation worries many in the City of London, the
financial centre that accounts for roughly one-tenth of the
British economy, because it would lose out were trading to move
to Frankfurt or elsewhere.
Weidmann said Britain's financial sector "stands to gain
from dismantling the existing barriers to cross-border trade".
(Writing By John O'Donnell; Editing by Hugh Lawson)