BRITAIN must fix its economic relationship with Brussels to persuade the voters it is right to remain in the European Union, George Osborne has warned.
The Chancellor said the central attraction of membership was the economic benefits and he preferred to talk about the EU as a “single market of free trade”.
Mr Osborne, who is playing a leading role in renegotiations in Europe ahead of the in/out referendum, is working on plans to give national parliaments a “bigger role” in EU laws and regulations.
He told The Daily Telegraph: “I’ve always thought the mainstream bulk of the British public wants to be in Europe, not run by Europe.”
Asked if he wanted to return Britain to a trading relationship with the EU, he said: “I prefer to talk about it as a single market of free trade. It’s free trade with the rules that enable the free trade to be a real success. That’s the way I think we should think about it.
“Britain has other interests at a European level. For example, the climate change talks that are happening in Paris at the end of this year. The security work that we do with the French.
“But for Britain, I always felt that the central attraction of European Union membership was the economic one. And that’s why it’s so important to fix the economic aspects of our relationship if we are going to convince people and convince ourselves that it is right for Britain to remain in the EU.”
Mr Osborne, speaking after talks in Paris, insisted renegotiation of Britain’s place in Europe was possible.
He said: “There is a deal to be done ... it’s not going to be straightforward, it’s not going to be easy ... but it is absolutely do-able.”
The referendum, due to be staged by the end of 2017, is going ahead following the Conservatives’ surprise win in May, a victory that the Chancellor conceded he had not expected.
He told the newspaper: “I fundamentally thought that we would remain in office, but I didn’t think that it was very likely we would do so with an overall majority.
“I felt we had done enough to persuade the British people to give us one (a majority). But it didn’t look like that was going to happen.
“I live in Downing Street, so there was a very real practical issue. I had taken the decision not to pack up (completely). But I did have a bag that would have kept me in clean shirts for a few days.”