UK & World News
US Calls For 'A Strong British Voice In EU'
The Obama administration has publicly indicated that it wants Britain to retain an influential role in the European Union.
The US assistant secretary for European affairs, Philip Gordon, made it clear that Washington favoured a "strong British voice" within the EU and cautioned against a referendum on Europe.
Speaking during a visit to London, Mr Gordon said: "We have a growing relationship with the EU as an institution, which has an increasing voice in the world, and we want to see a strong British voice in that EU.
"That is in America's interests. We welcome an outward-looking EU with Britain in it."
David Cameron is due to make a speech this month in which he will set out his plans to renegotiate Britain's relationship with the EU - including clawing back many powers - and put that settlement to voters.
Some in his party advocate Britain's withdrawal from the EU, and Mr Cameron is expected to promise a referendum for after 2015 in his speech.
Mr Gordon said "referendums have often turned countries inward" and raised concerns about the internal debate in the EU about its structures in the aftermath of the eurozone debt crisis.
"Every hour at a summit spent debating the institutional make-up of the European Union is one hour less spent on how to deal with the common issues of jobs, growth and international peace around the world."
He stressed that he was speaking up for US interests and would not interfere in British decisions. "What is in the UK's interests is up to the UK."
British business leaders also warned of the "uncertainty" that could be created by demands for a new relationship with the EU.
In a letter to the Financial Times, figures including Sir Richard Branson, the head of Virgin, and Sir Roger Carr, president of the CBI, warned against demands for "a wholesale renegotiation of our EU membership, which would almost certainly be rejected".
Douglas Alexander, the Shadow foreign secretary, said: "On the same day that top British business leaders fired a warning shot across the bows of the Prime Minister, a senior White House official has also signalled concerns about the possibility of Britain leaving the EU.
"There is today a real risk of Britain sleepwalking towards exit because of a Prime Minister motivated more by the need for party unity than by the interests of the country."