Britain should leave EU: former Commission chief Delors
(FRANKFURT) - Britain could leave the European Union and enter into a different sort of partnership with the political and economic bloc instead, former EU Commission chief Jacques Delors said on Friday.
"The British are solely concerned about their economic interests, nothing else. They could be offered a different form of partnership," Delors told the business daily Handelsblatt in an interview.
Opinion polls increasingly show Britons favour a full exit from the EU, which is widely perceived in Britain as meddling in domestic affairs and wasting money during a time of austerity at home.
British Prime Minister David Cameron, who is under pressure from "eurosceptics" in his Conservative party, said last month that he still supports British membership of the EU but wants a "new settlement" that involves winning opt-outs on key issues.
In an interview with The Guardian newspaper on Thursday, EU President Herman Van Rompuy warned that such proposals could cause the EU to unravel.
Delors was conciliatory, however.
"If the British cannot support the trend towards more integration in Europe, we can nevertheless remain friends, but on a different basis," the French former minister said.
"I could imagine a form such as a European economic area or a free trade agreement," Delors suggested.
Britain was "strategically and economically important," and should remain "a privileged partner," he insisted.
Van Rompuy said a British departure from the EU would be like seeing "a friend walk off into the desert".
"Britain's contribution is greater, I think, than it sometimes realises itself," he said.
Britain joined the EU in 1973.
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