Prime Minister David Cameron Monday defended his
plan to seek a "renegotiation" of Britain's relationship with the EU,
which has met stiff criticism from his key European partners, the US
and business leaders.
In a BBC interview, Cameron stressed that he wanted Britain to remain within the EU, but that its relationship with the 27-member bloc needed to be redefined in view of closer integration that is being forced by the eurozone crisis.
"Europe is changing and the opportunity for us to lead those changes and make changes that make our relationship with Europe more comfortable ... are absolutely there," said Cameron.
But he rejected suggestions that he was initiating a process that could damage Britain's interests.
"The debate is happening anyway," said Cameron.
Cameron is expected to publicize his plans for a "fresh settlement" with the EU in a keynote speech next week.
However, it emerged Monday that his preferred date for the speech, Jnauary 22, had met with objections from Berlin and Paris as it marks the 50th anniversary of the Elysee Treaty, which sealed post-war reconciliation between Germany and France in 1963.
Cameron discussed his plan with French President Francois Hollande and German Chancellor Angela Merkel at the weekend, Downing Street said.
But, after a "backlash from Berlin" over the proposed date, the speech would now most possibly be delivered on January 23, the Financial Times reported.
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