The trend has political leaders in other countries worried.
‘‘If the eurozone is much more integrated and those outside are far away, the distance can become too wide and too large,’’ Andreas Mavroyiannis, Cyprus’ deputy minister for European Affairs, told The Associated Press. And that, he said, would be dangerous for the EU as a whole.
Officials in Brussels are deeply concerned, as well.
‘‘Probably rightly, I've been called an Anglophile,’’ Jose Manuel Barroso, president of the European Commission, said in a magazine interview this summer. ‘‘I believe that Europe without Britain at the heart will be less reform-driven, less open, less an international Europe. That is why sometimes when I look at the debate in the U.K., I ask myself: ‘How is it that this country is so open to the world, and apparently so closed to Europe?’ It seems a contradiction.’’
The prospect of a British exit from the EU alarms some British business leaders, who see the bloc’s free markets as vital to their nation’s prosperity.
‘‘Whatever the popular appeal may be of withdrawal, businessmen and politicians must keep a bridge firmly in place,’’ said Roger Carr, the president of the Confederation of British Industry, the nation’s biggest business lobby.
‘‘As countries of Europe bind together in pursuit of salvation, we in the U.K. must work harder to avoid the risks of isolation.’’
Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair, who left office in 2007 before the debt crisis struck, is another lonely advocate for British leadership in Europe.
‘‘The 21st century case for Europe is based not on war or peace but on power or irrelevance,’’ Blair said last month. ‘‘Europe carries weight, multiplies opportunity and makes sense for its individual nations.’’
He has urged Britain’s government not to walk away, but to help build a new structure to help Europe balance the competing demands of the 17 eurozone nations and the remainder of the European Union.
‘‘It is a very tricky task. But it is an essential one if the U.K. is not to be sidelined,’’ Blair said.
Peter Mandelson, a former member of Blair’s Cabinet and ex-European Union trade commissioner, warns that going it alone would mean waning influence for Britain on the global stage.
Britain, he said, soon could be a ‘‘Hong Kong to Europe’s China, or a Canada to Europe’s United States.’’
Stringer reported from London. Don Melvin can be reached at http://twitter.com/Don_Melvin .