Jan 15 - Britain's Finance Minister, George Osborne, issues a stark warning that failure by the European Union to reform will condemn it to a future of economic crisis and decline. As David Pollard reports, his vow to ''not go on like this'' may not make him very popular abroad.
UK finance minister, George Osborne, went to the heart of the matter with an ultimatum. SOUNDBITE (English) UK FINANCE MINISTER, GEORGE OSBORNE, SAYING: ''There is a simple choice for Europe: reform or decline. Our determination is clear, to deliver the reform and then let the people decide." Europe is the iconic achilles heel of Osborne's Conservative Party - it helped bring down the government of Margaret Thatcher. With elections looming, the pressure from within Eurosceptic ranks has gone up a notch. A third of the party's members of parliament made a demand for a veto on EU legislation, just days before this speech. SOUNDBITE (English) UK FINANCE MINISTER, GEORGE OSBORNE, SAYING: "The European treaties are not fit for purpose. They didn't anticipate a European Union where some countries would pursue dramatically deeper integration than others.'' The promise of a referendum on Europe would, it had been hoped, appease the Eurosceptics. The official party line is that Britain will fight to renegotiate the terms of its membership before a vote. SOUNDBITE (English) UK FINANCE MINISTER, GEORGE OSBORNE, SAYING: "I believe it is in no one's interest for Britain to come to face a choice between joining the euro or leaving the European Union. We don't want to join the euro, but also our withdrawal from a Europe we'd succeeded in reforming would be bad for Britain.'' Osborne also went to the defence of the City of London - warning against what he called the 'very real risk' of bad legislation being imposed on the UK. Investors like Nick Beecroft of Saxo Bank agree with that, and the rest. SOUNDBITE (English) NICK BEECROFT, CHAIRMAN & SENIOR MARKET ANALYST, SAXO BANK, SAYING: ''Unless the EU really modernises, reforms and forms a fiscal union, then I can't see the euro surviving beyond five years, let's put it that way.'' A referendum on Europe is pencilled in for 2017. For it to happen, the Conservatives must succeed in parliamentary elections next year - and before that, go through European elections in May, where they could face a serious threat from the anti-EU UK Independence Party.