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Uncertainty over UK role in EU will harm jobs-deputy PM

Britain's Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg leaves Downing Street in London November 29, 2012. REUTERS/Luke MacGregor
Britain's Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg leaves Downing Street in London November 29, 2012. REUTERS/Luke MacGregor

LONDON (Reuters) - British plans to renegotiate ties with the European Union could chase away investment and jobs, Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg said on Tuesday, highlighting faultlines over Europe straining Britain's governing coalition.

Prime Minister David Cameron, a Conservative, will on Friday outline his aim to take advantage of possible EU treaty changes sparked by further integration of eurozone countries to reshape Britain's own ties with the 27-member bloc.

Clegg, who leads the Liberal Democrats, the Conservatives' junior partner in coalition rule, said there was no guarantee more EU integration would require treaty changes or involve non-eurozone members such as Britain.

That will create uncertainty that could harm Britain's business environment, he said.

"The eurozone is changing, that is obvious. We do not know when that will manifest itself in a new treaty, and we don't know if there is a new treaty. Some significant states in the eurozone do not want any treaty change at all," Clegg told BBC radio.

"We should be very careful at a time when the British economy is still haltingly recovering from the worst economic shock in a generation to create a very high degree and prolonged period of uncertainty, because in my view uncertainty is the enemy of growth and jobs," he added.

Cameron says he wants to remain in the European Union, and is widely expected in a long-awaited speech in the Netherlands on Friday to pledge to reshape ties with the bloc then offer a vote on the deal after the next general election in 2015.

British business leaders echo Clegg's concerns, and are keen to retain access to the EU's single market, where Britain does around half its trade.

(Reporting by Mohammed Abbas, editing by Kate Holton)

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