European leaders at the economic summit in Davos on Thursday urged the UK not to vote to pull out of the European Union as Prime Minister David Cameron called on business leaders to voice their support for Britain staying in a reformed EU.
Mr Cameron told British business leaders attending the World Economic Forum that he needed their help
in his bid to shape "the future direction" of the EU by voicing their support for his renegotiation of the UK's terms of membership
ahead of the planned in-out referendum.
"If you believe like I do that Britain is better off in a reformed European Union... then, when the time comes, help me make that case for Britain to stay. This is a once in a generation moment and the stakes are high," he said.
Meanwhile, Mark Rutte, the Dutch prime minister, told a meeting in Davos that Europe "needs" the UK to stay within the 28-nation bloc and echoed Mr Cameron's call for business leaders to actively campaign to prevent a Brexit.
"The UK is outward looking, trade oriented, growth oriented, and we do not have enough of that storyline, that tradition, that culture within the European Union," Mr Rutte said.
"The European Union can only survive if it is relevant to its people, and it can only be relevant if it leads to economic growth, more jobs and prosperity.
"I believe the United Kingdom will be worse off outside the EU. It will not have the influence it has in the world today.
Isn't it strange to even debate a Brexit at a time the world is facing all these huge issues and challenges?"
Describing Mr Cameron as an "influential and excellent leader", Mr Rutte added, "We would all be worse off if he left, so all 28 countries must work together to create an EU that is more competitive, more outwards-looking, more growth-oriented.
If we could achieve that, the whole episode (of the UK's renegotiation) will have a positive ending."
Manuel Valls, the French prime minister, also told the meeting it would be a "tragedy for Europe" if the UK quit the EU and said Mr Cameron was right to seek a more simple and effective Europe.
"We must find a compromise and everyone must contribute to it," he said. "Our British friends must understand we will move forwards hand in hand. Nothing would be worse than to see a country like UK leave, it would lead to more populism."
Zhu Min, deputy managing director at the IMF, also said that it was "very difficult" to see the financial and economic argument in favour of a Brexit.
He told the BBC, "In the past 10, 15 years all we talk about is globalisation. Interconnectivities have become such a big thing, we are all closely linked to each other. So, it's really hard to see someone want to isolate itself [sic]."
However, a report published by the think-tank Civitas on Thursday maintained that it was "a myth" that membership of the EU gave the UK additional clout in negotiating international free trade deals.
The report said that far from opening up foreign markets, the EU had been less successful than the likes of Switzerland, Singapore and South Korea and Chile in negotiating such deals.
But Lucy Thomas, deputy director of the Britain Stronger in Europe
group, said, "This is the latest in the baseless claims coming from 'leave' campaigners about what fantasy deals might be on the table if we leave Europe. If we look at what our major trade partners like the USA, India and China have said, all three have made clear that they value the UK remaining part of the EU. Indeed the US trade representative said they wouldn't be prepared to deal with individual countries when it comes to negotiating free trade deals.
"This is an economically illiterate piece of research, which fails to take into account the terms of the deals they examine. The 'leave' campaigns need to stop scaremongering and come clean with the public about what relationship we would have with Europe – our biggest customer – if we went out on our own."
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