By Martin Banks - 26th January 2011
Let's be clear: all key issues must run through Europe
A top US diplomat has urged the UK to rule out any possibility of the country ever quitting the EU.
The demand by Louis Susman, America's ambassador to the UK, comes amid growing public scepticism about the EU and its institutions. Opinion polls regularly show that support for EU membership is among the lowest of any member state.
The debate about UK membership is again in the news as the government's EU Bill, a key piece of legislation, currently works its way through the British parliament.
UK premier David Cameron has pledged to hold a referendum in the event of any future EU treaty changes.
The plan for a "referendum lock", contained in the Bill would ensure "significant" EU treaties must be approved by a referendum of UK voters, with the same rule in place for major changes to existing treaties.
But, speaking in parliament on Tuesday, Susman signalled that Washington wants a clearer British commitment to remain in the EU, saying "I want to stress that the UK needs to remain in the EU.
"The US does not want to see Britain's role in the EU diminished in any way.
"The message I want to convey today is that we want to see a stronger EU, but also a stronger British participation within the EU.
Susman, who took up his current post a year ago, added, "This is crucial if, together, we are going to meet all the global challenges facing us, including climate change and security.
"But let's be clear: all key issues must run through Europe."
Susman, who was addressing a group of British MEPs at a private event in parliament, also praised the so-called "special relationship" between the US and Britain, saying it was "stronger than ever."
Speaking at the same event, William Kennard, the US ambassador to the EU, admitted that the furore last year over the exchange of data protection information between the two sides had been a "wake-up" call for Washington.
The issue caused major friction and Kennard said, "In retrospective, the dispute was something of a blessing in disguise."
He added, "After the Lisbon treaty was enacted there was a changing power and dynamic in the EU and that is something we Americans have had to get used to."
"The complexities of all this have had to be explained but I am glad to say that we have got there."