UK risks 'turning inwards' over EU referendum - US official
The Obama administration has publicly expressed concern about the impact of a UK referendum on its future relationship with the EU.
Philip Gordon, a senior official in the US State Department, said it was in America's interests to see a "strong British voice within the EU".
"Referendums have often turned countries inwards," he added.
The comments come as David Cameron prepares to make a major speech later this month on future European policy.
In response, No 10 said: "The US wants an outward-looking EU with Britain in it, and so do we."
The prime minister is facing pressure to hold a referendum on Europe at some stage during the next Parliament and has said the Conservatives will offer voters "real change" and "real choice" on the UK's position in Europe at the next election - scheduled for 2015.
Mr Cameron wants the UK to remain within the EU but believes there is a need to redefine the relationship in light of moves towards further integration by countries using the single currency.
He has suggested "fresh consent" for any new deal that emerges as a result of negotiations with other EU countries could be sought from the UK public.
However, many Conservative MPs want him to go further and to commit to a referendum on the question of whether the UK remains in the EU or not - a so-called "in-out vote" he does not support.
Philip Gordon, the US assistant secretary for European affairs in the State Department, was asked about the possibility of a UK referendum ahead of a meeting with Europe minister David Lidington in London.
Mr Gordon told journalists that the UK would always be a key ally of the US and that "what is in the UK's interests is up to the UK".
But he added: "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."
Discussing the often "inward-looking" history of EU negotiations, Mr Gordon said that "referendums have often turned countries inward".
"The more the EU reflects on its internal debate, the less it is able to be unified," he said.
"I'm not going to imagine an EU which ever buried any internal debates... but it is best for everyone, we think, when leaders have the time to be able to focus on common challenges rather than spending their time on internal workings."
BBC chief political correspondent Norman Smith said it was a "significant development" in the debate over Europe ahead of Mr Cameron's speech and showed a measure of disquiet in Washington over the "direction of travel" that the UK may be taking.
Earlier on Tuesday, 10 of the UK's leading business figures warned Mr Cameron not to put membership of the EU "at risk" in negotiations over the country's relationship with Brussels.
Shadow foreign secretary Douglas Alexander 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."
But, in a message on Twitter, Conservative MP Douglas Carswell cast doubt on the US intervention. "A US official believes UK should continue to be ruled by EU officials. Hardly surprising - it's how officials think."
Fellow Conservative Richard Ottaway, who is chair of the Commons Foreign Affairs Select Committee, said the comments were a "bit unexpected" and "the mood of the nation" was in favour of holding a referendum at some point in the future.
"It is too late to say we are not going to hold a referendum because the US does not want us to have one," he told the BBC.
While he favoured the UK remaining within the EU, he believed that asking the public to decide would help "clear the air" and he trusted the British public to reach a "sensible" decision.
I would suggest Obama and his Government should keep out of matters concerning the British Public and the British Prime Minister, and not try to advice Cameron not to allow the British Public their legal right to a Referendum on leaving the EU.
Obama knows very little about the EU and the Treaties, the Referendum that the UKIP and the British Public are pushing for, is a Referendum that is well over due, the Brit’s in Stoke-on-Trent , and parts of Staffordshire are not very pleased, very upset with Obama.
if Obama is intent of making a mess of his Own Country which he has been doing for the last 4 years and will be doing for the next 4, this is up to him, but he should not by any means try to make a mess of other Countries which he has no control over.
Had it been left up to the British Public, Obama would not have been elected in 2008, let alone been re-elected in 2011, indeed, I would suggest most strongly that Obama and his failed Government should make good the mess of the last 4 years and admit he was never a President and could never be a President, and call for a further re-election. What a nice thought, if only.
Obama will do what ever he can where ever he can in order to make peoples lives miserable! It's all a power trip for him to take over the whole world!! Between he and George Soros they are a world of EVIL!! I hope the people over there start telling him to shut his yap and concentrate on just one country that he can't even handle!
Beat me to it Carol! LOL But that's the truth Ray. Obama has been on nothing but a power trip. He'd wear a crown if someone put it on his head. It's obvious he thinks everyone should bow to his highness on everything he wants, or he'll make it an EO. If this POS stays in he'll probably make it a EO to bow to his narcissistic self, and I truly do believe there are sheep who will do it. No joke intended. Obama needs to be told to BACK OFF and shut his fly trap, in no uncertain terms or he won't.
That's a yes Sherry!!!
Carol and Sherry, yes I agree with you both, my concerns, is Obama does not know what the EU plans are, indeed if we stay in the EU, the chance of the UK been part of a USE is very real if there is a Labour Government in power, Labour have always been all to ready to hand powers over to the EU, Lib-Dem’s are not much different.
Once this happens, the EU will form a Military Force made up of each state, this would include the UK, which is not good for the US, as you know 9 times out 10, the UK and US are always together in conflict, I would not see how this could or would happen if we become part of a USE, Obama is not thinking along these lines.
at the end of both World Wars both Countries have enjoyed fighting alongside each other and sharing top classified information at the same time, this is very important for the correct outcome
of the conflict
I recalled before the US and UK went into Iraq, where was France and other EU Countries, indeed France voted against US and UK going into Iraq at the UN.
Further to this we don’t need the EU, we have the Commonwealth Countries which are more stable than the EU, the Eurozone problems will never end, we face another problem year this and no doubt more of the same to come in the next few years,
There is some 56 Countries in the commonwealth without any problems, there is 27 in the EU with more problems than enough, the pro’s don’t out weight the con’s, indeed, for Obama to understand the EU and how they work, Obama would have to be in the EU, and I don’t mean just a summit with all member states but as a member of the EU, only then will Obama understand, mind you, with Obama, I am not so sure if he would.