Downing Street: UK needs to renegotiate EU membership despite José Manuel Barroso's warnings

 
Emma Haslett
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The UK cannot "get by with a little help from its friends", said José Manuel Barroso today (Source: Getty)

The UK "needs" to renegotiate its European Union membership, a Downing Street official has warned - despite warnings by José Manuel Barroso it will lose relevance if it leaves the union.

In a speech at think tank Chatham House this morning, the outgoing European Commission president, who steps down this month, said EU membership had put the UK in a stronger position than it could have been on its own in everything from the fight against climate change to its campaign against Islamic State militants.

Even the largest, proudest European nation cannot hope to shape globalisation – or even retain marginal relevance – by itself... Could the UK get by without a little help from your friends? My answer is probably not.

He also hinted that anti-immigration sentiment in the UK will "offend fellow member states".

It would be an historic mistake if on these issues Britain were to continue to alienate its natural allies in central and eastern Europe, when you were one of the strongest advocates for their accession.

Yesterday, Barroso appeared on The Andrew Marr Show to argue that the UK's influence would be "zero" if it quits the EU, adding that the Prime Minister's attempts to curb EU immigration could be illegal.

But a No 10 source told the BBC this morning that Barroso should be "under no illusion that the status quo is not acceptable to the UK", and that Britain "needed to negotiate a better deal from the bloc".

The Prime Minister has vowed to hold a referendum on EU membership in 2017 if the Conservatives win next year's election.

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