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Obama tells Cameron why Britain should stay in the European UnionUS President and UK Premier use hour-long call to discuss rising tide of Euroscepticism in BritainWhite House is anxious that withdrawal from Brussels would damage transatlantic relations
15:15 GMT, 19 December 2012
Barack Obama has warned Britain against leaving the European Union, it emerged today.
The US President used a call to David Cameron to urge him to resist calls to abandon Brussels, ahead of the PM delivering a major speech on Europe in the New Year.
But President Obama is understood to be backing Mr Cameron's approach in his fight for a 'better deal for Britain'.
David Cameron and Barack Obama discussed growing levels of Euroscepticism in Britain during an hour-long conference call last night (file pictures)
The White House is thought to be
concerned that Britain would lose clout on the world stage if it was no
longer part of the euro bloc.
It could also harm the special relationship if London was no longer seen as an ally able to wield influence across Europe.
Mr Cameron is under pressure from Tory backbenchers, and a surge in the polls for the UK Independence Party, to take a tougher line with Brussels.
He is expected to use January’s landmark speech to set out areas of policy controlled by the EU that he believes could be repatriated to Britain, before offering a referendum on a ‘fresh settlement’.
On Monday Mr Cameron told MPs the idea of Britain leaving the EU was ‘imaginable’ but not what he wanted.
Washington is thought to be increasingly concerned about what is seen as Britain inching towards full-scale withdrawal from the EU.
A Downing Street source said Britain’s membership of the EU ‘came up’ in an hour-long video-conference call between President Obama and Mr Cameron last night.
‘The President was supportive of the PM’s position,’ the source added.
President Obama backed the stance taken by Mr Cameron at a European Council meeting in Brussels last week
Last week Mr Cameron told reporters at a European Council meeting in Brussels that the eurozone moving towards greater integration presented an opportunity for Britain.
'As this plays out, this is changing the European Union,' he said.
'As it changes the European Union and the eurozone make changes that they need, so I believe there are opportunities for others, including Britain, to make changes ourselves.'
The call also touched on the Sandy Hook school shooting, the news of the Royal baby and discussions on Afghanistan, Syria, Iran and the Middle East Peace Process.
Officials in the US have stressed that the UK continuing to have a strong role Europe is ‘in America's national interest’. The Obama administration views the EU as a ‘force multiplier’.
Former Prime Minister Tony Blair has also revealed the anxiety in the US and around the world at the prospect of Britain quitting the EU.
'One of the things that has alarmed me recently in different parts of the world – America, China, India – there is a very large question that people are asking which is: “are you guys seriously going to get out of Europe”,’ he told journalists in Westminster yesterday.
He said Britain has a 'profound national interest' in staying in the EU and warned that a referendum could not be used by politicians to dodge tough decisions.
'The first thing is we need to work out what it is we want Europe to be then we get to the referendum questions later,' he said.
'A referendum is not the way of alleviating the political responsibility of leaders to take a clear position and fight for it.
'If we start giving the suggesting that the referendum is an issue you are kind of probing for political reasons that's very difficult.'