British Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond said on 14 January that an economically "turbo-charged" European Union would be beneficial for both Britain and the EU as the British government pushes for EU reforms before its citizens vote in an EU membership referendum. Hammond also expressed his optimism over a breakthrough in the Cyprus dispute being within sight during a brief visit to Greece.
British Prime Minister David Cameron has suggested he wants the referendum to take place this year, and has expressed confidence he can secure change in the four areas where he is seeking to redefine Britain's membership terms. Cameron said he will campaign to stay in the EU if he succeeds in getting what he calls "the best deal for Britain".
"What we are seeking is a European Union that is fit for the 21st century, a European Union that can deliver the priorities of its citizens, and I believe that those priorities are economic growth and the creation of jobs. We have to have a European Union that acts as a turbo-charger on the economies of its member states, not a European Union that acts as a break to their ambition," said Hammond, during a brief visit to Athens.
British support for remaining in the European Union will fall significantly if Cameron is not able to achieve safeguards for non-euro zone countries and curbs to welfare payments for migrants, according to polls. Among his proposals are guarantees to ensure London's financial dominance is not challenged by the closer integration of the euro zone and a plan to make EU migrant workers wait four years before they are allowed to claim some state benefits. Hammond said that the measures Britain wants would be beneficial to the whole bloc.
"I hope that we will be able to come to a good solution which introduces measures of reform that will make the European Union more effective and allow the British people to vote in a referendum to decisively make Britain's future inside a reformed European Union. And I believe that Britain is good for Europe and Europe - if we can get the right reforms - is good for Britain," Hammond told reporters at a news conference.
Hammond's next stop is Ankara, where he is scheduled to discuss migration issues with the Turkish leadership.