George Osborne: EU must change for Britain to stay

You may be surprised to learn that George Osborne has said this to the German paper Die Welt: "Itch huffed sear, doss Großbritannien ein Mitglied der EU bleibt. Aber damit wir in der Europäischen Union bleiben, muss die EU sich verändern."

Alright, that was how his words were translated, but Mr Osborne's actual words were still surprising, he said:

I very much hope that Britain remains a member of the EU. But in order that we can remain in the European Union, the EU must change.

– Chancellor George Osborne
Chancellor George Osborne pictured at a European Union finance ministers meeting June 2012 Credit: Reuters/Francois Lenoir

Now everyone agrees the EU must change, from the most Eurosceptical Tory Eurosceptic all the way through to Nick Clegg.

But for the Chancellor to say it must change in order for Britain to remain in. Well that sounds like an ultimatum.

The Treasury insist Mr Osborne is merely restating the existing position; that the EU must change. But the Chancellor's words also clearly contain a threat to leave.

This is a high stakes game.

The EU doesn't, on the whole, want to renegotiate Britain's position and Britain can't force it to.

But the Government says it doesn't want Britain to leave the EU (and neither do the Europeans, nor for that matter do the Americans).

Something's got to give.