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British minister: I wouldn't shed a tear if Britain left Europe

[LONDON] A British government minister tipped as a potential successor to Prime Minister David Cameron as leader of the Conservative Party said on Thursday he wouldn't shed a tear if Britain left the European Union.

Mr Cameron has promised to renegotiate Britain's ties with the bloc before holding a membership referendum in 2017, if his party wins what is set to be a closely-fought national election on May 7.

Asked at a lunch for reporters if he would shed a tear if Britain left the EU, Culture Secretary Sajid Javid said: "The most important thing is the British people are given a choice ... would I shed a tear? No."

Changes sought by Mr Cameron, who has said he favours remaining in a reformed EU but will rule nothing out if his negotiations are unsuccessful, include further curbing EU migrants' access to Britain's welfare system and reducing business regulation.

"There are a lot of reasons to be very confident about the plans that the Conservatives have to renegotiate," said Mr Javid, a former investment banker.

"But ... when it comes to getting those changes and then the referendum, nothing should be off the table."