George Osborne, the U.K. chancellor of the exchequer, became the first senior minister to signal the possibility of a referendum on membership in the European Union, U.K. daily The Times reported Friday.
In doing so, the chancellor surprised Downing Street and set himself on a collision course with his Liberal Democrat coalition partners, the Times said.
Mr. Osborne said a plan to rescue the single currency was likely to mean handing more powers to Brussels, The Times said. This would automatically trigger a referendum under a new law introduced by the coalition, The Times said.
"I think what the public are concerned about, the British people would be concerned about, would be if there was any transfer of power," Mr Osborne said, according to the Times. "A reshaped relationship with Europe would imply, would involve, a transfer of sovereignty or powers from the U.K. to Brussels."
His remark appeared to overstep the agreed coalition position, The Times said. The newspaper noted that Prime Minister David Cameron was more cautious on a visit to Berlin for talks with Angela Merkel, the German chancellor, saying that you need a referendum if you "change the rules of the game".
Newspaper Web site: http://thetimes.co.uk