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U.K. Debate on EU Membership Is a Positive Move: Barnier

Feb. 1 (Bloomberg) -- The U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron’s pledge to hold a referendum on Britain leaving the European Union is a “positive” move, Michel Barnier, the EU’s financial services chief, said in an interview in London.

Barnier, responsible for proposing financial rules for the 27-nation bloc, said he had worked on laws aimed at protecting consumers and taxpayers “with the U.K., not against the U.K.”

“I know the EU problem in the U.K,” Barnier said. “It’s the same EU problem in France and other countries. It’s a positive thing to have a debate on these issues.”

Cameron said last month that, if he wins the 2015 general election, he’ll seek to renegotiate Britain’s membership in the EU before putting it to a popular vote by 2017. The move was criticized by Germany, France, the U.S., and Nick Clegg, Cameron’s Liberal Democrat deputy.

Half of Britain’s exports go to the EU, and 38 percent of service exports went to the bloc in the first three quarters of last year, according to Citigroup Inc.

“I have at least one point of agreement with Cameron and that is the importance of the single market,” Barnier said.

To contact the reporter on this story: Ben Moshinsky in Brussels at bmoshinsky@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Anthony Aarons at aaarons@bloomberg.net

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