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Cameron defends ‘referendum plans’

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Davos, Switzerland -

Prime Minister David Cameron said on Thursday that Britain was not turning its back on Europe, after angering his EU partners by announcing plans for a referendum on membership.

Cameron also insisted that his vow in a speech in London on Wednesday to let the British people vote on the issue by the end of 2017 would not deter foreign investors.

“This is not about turning our backs on Europe - quite the opposite,” Cameron told the World Economic Forum in Davos.

“It’s about how we make the case for a more competitive, open and flexible Europe, and secure the UK’s place within it.”

Cameron played down comments by his main European partners that Britain could not pick and choose what it wanted from the EU, and reiterated his view that the bloc needed urgent reforms to make it competitive.

“What I'm proposing is not just change for Britain but also change for Europe,” the British premier said.

“We have to be frank about our performance. We are falling behind in the world. We're over-regulating our business, we're adding too much to their costs. We're leaving our citizens behind.

“And that's why I say that Europe too often has been a cause of cost to business and complaints to our citizens and we need to deal with that not just for Britain's sake but for everyone's sake in the EU.”

Asked whether uncertainty could deter businesses from investing in Britain - a question that drew a round of applause - Cameron replied: “There is a debate underway already about Britain's place in the European Union, business knows that.

“It is much better to be frank and open about that and set out the pathway where we're going to resolve this issue in a way that will actually benefit business, because we'll end up with a more competitive, more open Europe.”

Cameron said British business leaders - including more than 50

who wrote a letter to the Times newspaper on Thursday - “say that this is a sensible approach.” - Sapa-AFP

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