Britain’s new European Commissioner sought to calm tensions between London and the EU Thursday, saying the question of its membership was “a boil that needs to be lanced”.
Jonathan Hill’s comments came after the fault lines between Britain and the EU were exposed by new European Commission boss Jean-Claude Juncker claiming Wednesday that Prime Minister David Cameron had a “problem” with other leaders.
Facing pressure from eurosceptics at home, Cameron wants to renegotiate Britain’s relationship with the EU before a possible referendum on whether it should leave the bloc in 2017.
But his desire to reform key European principles such as freedom of movement faces opposition from other European leaders, while a row over a backdated 2.1 billion euro ($2.6 billion) budget payment demand has exacerbated tensions.
The row over the budget demand, which Cameron has refused to pay by a December 1 deadline, will be discussed at a meeting of European finance ministers in Brussels Friday including Britain’s George Osborne.
Hill urged all parties to “calm the situation down” and try and find “practical solutions” to the problem.
He also backed Britain to stay in a reformed EU after a referendum in 2017 which will be held if Cameron’s Conservatives, currently in a coalition government, win next year’s general election outright.
Cameron faces two key battles on European policy at home in the coming days.
Parliament is expected to vote Monday on whether it should opt out of the European Arrest Warrant (EAW) system, which allows the swift extradition of suspects between EU states.
In a letter to the Daily Telegraph published Thursday, 40 senior legal figures including judges and lawyers warned that Britain would become a “safe haven” for foreign criminals if it opts out of the EAW.
On November 20, he also looks set to lose a second parliamentary seat to the anti-EU UK Independence Party in a by-election triggered when a lawmaker defected from the Conservatives to surging UKIP.