David Cameron will today confront his Tory critics by making the positive case for continuing European Union membership as he holds talks with President Barack Obama over a giant US-EU trade deal that could provide a £10bn annual boost to the British economy.
With his party in renewed turmoil over Europe, the Prime Minister will also seek to reassure the White House that Britain – which senior figures in the Obama administration have insisted they regard as a crucial member of union – is not heading for the exit door of the EU.
The planned agreement would establish a free trade area between the world’s two largest trading blocs, creating a transatlantic market of 800 million consumers.
The White House talks are designed to pave the way for next month’s meeting of G8 leaders in Lough Erne, Northern Ireland, where Mr Cameron hopes negotiations will begin on the planned agreement.
Writing in today’s Wall Street Journal, Mr Cameron says: “This deal could add as much as £10bn to the British economy and £63bn to US GDP. But the rest of the world would benefit too, with gains that could generate €100bn worldwide.”
The Government last night released research suggesting a US-EU compact sweeping away trade barriers would particularly benefit the automotive, financial and chemical sectors. It claimed the deal could be worth £380 a year for each British family.
Karel de Gucht, the European Commissioner for Trade, has cited the deal as a prime reason for why Britain should stay in the EU, telling The Independent last week that it would be “clear madness” for the UK to leave in light of such a deal.
Today’s talks will also focus on the crisis in Syria, with Mr Cameron pressing for an intensification of diplomatic efforts to force President Bashar al-Assad’s regime to relinquish power.
The Prime Minister and President Obama will be joined by US Secretary of State John Kerry to discuss ways of supporting the emergence of moderate, credible opposition forces.
Mr Cameron will visit the FBI headquarters today for a briefing on last month’s Boston marathon bombings and to see whether Britain can learn any lessons for handling terrorist attacks. He will be accompanied by the new Director of MI5, Andrew Parker, and will fly on to Boston later today for meetings with the city authorities.
The Prime Minister’s visit is part of a diplomatic tour ahead of the G8 meeting at which world leaders will also discuss practical ways of stopping major corporations switching their profits to low-tax jurisdictions. Mr Cameron will urge the President to sign up to global rules to clamp down on aggressive tax avoidance.
As he flew out, a coalition of nearly 200 churches, charities and aid groups said it was essential for Britain to force crown dependencies – including the Channel Islands and the Isle of Man, as well as overseas territories such as the Cayman Islands and Bermuda – to be more open and transparent over their role as tax havens to encourage other countries to follow suit.
Signatories include a range of organisations such as the Church of England, the Church of Scotland, Oxfam, the Salvation Army, Save the Children and the Mo Farah Foundation.
Warning also of the danger that next month’s G8 meeting could fail to reach a significant agreement on tackling levels of hunger in the developing world, they said: “Getting the UK’s own house in order ahead of the G8 Leaders’ Summit is an essential step towards this ... We remain confident this G8 can secure a real breakthrough in the fight against hunger and tax transparency but your personal leadership and international diplomacy over the next few weeks will be critical to reaching this ambition.”