France and Germany opt out of UK's EU membership review

William Hague Foreign Secretary William Hague is carrying out an audit of EU powers and their impact on the UK

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France and Germany have decided not to contribute to a review of the impact of EU powers on the UK, it has emerged.

The review, launched last year, is seen as preparing the groundwork for the UK's renegotiation of its membership of the EU, as promised by David Cameron.

But France and Germany, who previously criticised an "a la carte" approach to Europe, have decided not to take part in the "domestic political exercise".

A Foreign Office source said ministers were "unworried" by the situation.

David Cameron has pledged to hold an in/out referendum on Britain's membership of the EU if the Conservatives win the next election.

He wants to renegotiate the UK's relationship with the EU, which is likely to include the repatriation of some powers, and then give people a vote on staying in under new terms, or leaving the EU.

Last July, Foreign Secretary William Hague launched a "comprehensive audit" of European Union powers and their impact on the UK.

'Nice-to-have'

The review, which will conclude in 2014, is expected to contribute towards discussions about which powers Britain wants to repatriate as part of the renegotiation.

Prime Minister David Cameron has already said the balance of powers between the EU needs to be examined in a "many areas" and "nothing should be off the table".

As part of the process, Mr Hague wrote to the 26 other EU member states informing them of the review and inviting them to contribute.

However, two of the EU's most influential members, France and Germany, have decided not to take part after high level discussions, according to the Financial Times.

The newspaper says that Sweden and Italy are among the countries which have responded.

A French diplomat told the BBC: "This is a British domestic political exercise. We have therefore decided we would not participate."

A source at the Foreign Office told the BBC: "It isn't a problem. The review is about the effect on the UK. We invited others to contribute. French and German responses would have been a nice-to-have but we are unworried about it."

France and Germany have previously warned the UK that it cannot cannot pick and choose its EU membership terms.

'Good response'

Following Mr Cameron's referendum pledge, French foreign minister Laurent Fabius and his German counterpart Guido Westerwelle wrote a joint article saying: "An a la carte Europe, which would see some claiming the advantages of the EU without complying with the obligations that come with them, is not a conceivable option."

A spokesman from the Foreign Office said: "This is intended to be an open and transparent process so of course we have invited other EU countries to contribute.

"Several member states already responded in the first semester along with a number of international organisations, but we recognise that others consider this an essentially domestic review and have decided not to contribute so far.

"Ultimately, the analysis will be focused on what the EU means for the UK and our national interest so our priority is the British audience and we've had a good response from stakeholders here so far."

Responses to the first part of the consultation, including those from other member states, are expected to be published in the summer.

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