DAVOS, Switzerland - British Prime Minister David Cameron wants nothing to do with a United States of Europe, an idea that's gaining currency as the countries that use the euro struggle to fix their debt crisis.
But what if it's a choice between a single country called Europe or a splintered continent? Cameron is determined to avoid that scary scenario.
A day after he shook up Europe's political landscape by offering British citizens the prospect of a vote on whether to stay in the 27-country European Union, Cameron insisted Thursday he wants Britain to remain a part of the bloc but that more unification would not be the answer.
"To try and shoehorn countries into a centralized political union would be a great mistake, and Britain would not be a part of it," he said at the World Economic Forum in the Swiss resort of Davos.
In an interview with The Associated Press afterward, Cameron insisted said he wanted to make Europe "more open, competitive, flexible - so that we can secure Britain's place within it."
"I think it is eminently achievable," he said.
Many in the EU, particularly among the 17 countries that use the euro, are on a drive for closer political unification, and that's raised particular concerns recently in Britain, which has often viewed the bloc through a business prism.
"If you mean that Europe has to be a political union, a country called Europe, then I disagree," said Cameron. On Wednesday, Cameron put an end to months of speculation by revealing he intends to hold a referendum on Britain's membership of the EU, if he wins the next general election, expected in 2015.
But many politicians in Europe think closer political ties are exactly what is needed to maintain continental unity in the face of a debt crisis that's laid bare fundamental flaws in the euro. The European Union, which last year won the Nobel Peace Prize, effectively started amid the rubble of World War II - the motivation to avoid future wars.
Some even think Europe's end-game has to be to resemble the United States of America. Countries would be so tied together in their economic and social fabric to make war inconceivable.
After decades of bit-by-bit integration, the links are now so tight that many European leaders refuse to publicly acknowledge that a British exit is a possibility.
Several accuse Cameron of putting the bloc at risk to deal with domestic political problems. His Conservative Party has a hardcore element that is highly skeptical of the EU, while an anti-EU party, the UK Independence Party, is gaining ground in the polls most notably at the expense of Cameron's Conservatives.