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UK finance minister offers vision for EU reform

Speaking to German business leaders and politicians in Berlin, George Osborne has laid out his wishes for EU reform, saying all of Europe would benefit if the changes included more open markets and less regulation.

Osborne, the British Chancellor of the Exchequer, told a gathering of German business leaders and politicians on Tuesday that EU reforms must "guarantee fairness for EU countries inside the single market, but outside the single currency."

His words underscored the hopes of the British government that guarantees be written into law preventing the eurozone from making its decisions binding for Britain.

London has said it will hold a referendum on whether to remain in the EU some time before the end of 2017.

In Berlin, Osborne said the trade bloc would benefit overall from reforms and less bureaucracy - and those changes would make it more attractive for British voters to stay in the bloc.

"You get a eurozone that works better, and we get a guarantee that eurozone decisions and costs are not imposed on us. You get a stronger euro; we make sure the voice of the pound is heard," the minister said.

Support from Angela Merkel

Deutschland Grillo mit Gabriel und Osborne beim Tag der Deutschen Industrie 2015

Osborne with German Economy Minister Gabriel (left) and German industry leader Grillo (right)

Speaking before Osborne, Chancellor Angela Merkel said it was Germany's wish for Britain to stay in the EU, and signaled flexibility in negotiating changes.

"All we can promise is to say that where there are justified wishes, where this is about competitiveness, about the better functioning of the European Union, British wishes are also our wishes," Merkel said.

She added that it "is important for many reasons to have Great Britain as a member state of the European Union, and so we will make the contribution that we can make - the British will have to decide the rest."

tko/cjc (AP, Reuters)

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