Cameron and Hollande differ over reforms to EU

 

Francois Hollande: "Amendments to the treaties are not urgent"

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French President Francois Hollande has said the European Union cannot be expected to "follow the example" of one country after talks with David Cameron.

He described Mr Cameron's demands for EU treaty changes by 2017, as a prelude to a referendum on the UK's membership, as "not a priority for the time being".

But Mr Cameron said he was committed to changing the UK's links with the EU.

Mr Hollande also declined to answer a question about his private life at a press conference at RAF Brize Norton.

He recently split from his partner Valerie Trierweiller amid reports he had an affair with another woman.

Analysis

It was the elephant that would have been in the aircraft hangar if it had been petite enough to fit through the door.

President Hollande's love life.

The British press sees its muscular awkwardness as a virility symbol; their French cousins as pathetically barren and uninquiring.

And then up stood Christopher Hope of the Daily Telegraph.

"Do you think your private life has made France an international joke, are you still having an affair with Julie Gayet and do you wish she was here?"

The President declined to answer.

And Julie Gayet may have been too busy anyway.

She was nominated today, as best supporting actress, for the French equivalent of an Oscar.

For playing a suspenders-wearing seductress.

Mr Cameron's Conservative Party is promising to hold an in-out referendum on the European Union by the end of 2017 if it wins the 2015 general election.

The Conservatives say a fundamental re-negotiation of the UK's membership, which would see more powers over immigration, welfare and justice return to the UK, would necessitate changes to existing EU treaties.

Speaking during a UK-France summit, Mr Hollande said the UK was entitled to hold a referendum about its place in Europe and he hoped the UK would remain a member of a more "efficient" union.

But he said the need for treaty changes, requiring the approval of other member states, were not "urgent" and the focus must be on Europe's economic challenges.

"We feel revising the treaties is not a priority for the time being," he said. "We can't expect to follow the example of one country in Europe to determine the rest."

But Mr Cameron said Europe must become more "competitive" and "better address" public concerns.

"We want to see those changes," he said. "We want to see that re-negotiation and that re-negotiation will involve elements of treaty change."

David Cameron and Francois Hollande stand beneath a model of an unmanned aircraft The two leaders celebrated the countries' defence links
David Cameron and Francois Hollande speak to the landlord of The Swan Inn After the talks, the two men moved onto the Swan Inn in Swinbrook for a pub lunch

He added: "What people really need to know is that the in-out referendum will happen by the end of 2017. There is no doubt about that."

But the prime minister suffered a setback after proposed legislation that would have enshrined the referendum pledge into law was killed off in the Lords - amid opposition from Labour, Lib Dem and crossbench peers.

French President Francois Hollande The French president has been criticised for his economic policies

Labour said Mr Hollande's remarks were further proof Mr Cameron's European agenda was "fraying at the seams".

"Europe does need to change, but the UK's partners are already ruling out treaty change on the arbitrary timetable that David Cameron has set out," its Europe spokesman Gareth Thomas said.

During two hours of talks, the two leaders also reached agreements on defence, energy and science and then moved onto a working lunch in a local pub, The Swan Inn at Swinbrook.

'Uncertainty'

The summit follows criticism by both the UK and French governments over the state of the other's economies, with some Conservatives contrasting the stronger growth and falling unemployment in the UK with the sluggish recovery in France and blaming Mr Hollande for pushing up tax rates.

Start Quote

The challenge for David Cameron is to frame his reforms in a way that might also appeal to the French voter and so perhaps weaken the resistance coming from the Elysee.”

End Quote

Mr Cameron praised the French president's recent announcement of cuts to business taxes and employer regulations.

In response, Mr Hollande said the two government's economic policies were "not exactly the same" but were focused on the same objectives, to boost growth and employment.

On defence, Mr Cameron said their relationship was as "close and important" as ever and, by working together, the two countries could ensure their defence budgets "go further" and have more of a "global impact".

Mr Hollande said co-operation was "very strong", highlighting joint military and diplomatic efforts in Libya and the Central African Republic and efforts to tackle the radicalisation of British and French citizens fighting in Syria.

Defence deals signed on Friday include a £120m feasibility study for a new armed drone, the Future Air Combat System, and a £500m joint purchase of anti-ship missiles

It was also announced that the UK will receive two A400M transport planes earlier than expected after swapping a delivery slot for the aircraft with the French.

A joint memorandum of understanding on nuclear power was also agreed, involving small and medium-sized firms in the nuclear supply chain and co-operation between researchers on both sides of the Channel.

 

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  • rate this
    +5

    Comment number 1277.

    One thing is for dead certain: should we opt out of the EU, our `cousins` across the pond will ditch us faster than last-week`s porridge.
    Sure, the EU isn`t perfect but tell me what is?
    The fact is that we are geographically and socially European. We can`t change that but we can influence the direction of the EU as long as we are members. If we are out, we are nowhere, politically

  • rate this
    +12

    Comment number 1264.

    We're only at this point of bickering about the EU because successive gov'ts have failed to listen to us minions on the various issues of concern. The last gov't thought they knew best, but didn't, and are now backtracking saying they got things wrong whilst the general population are left to deal with the consequences.

  • rate this
    +154

    Comment number 537.

    Hollande complained about the U.K taking in the wealthy French who are escaping his 75% tax regime, and yet he's the one who most wants to preserve the freedom of movement within the EU!

    Sorry Francois, you can't have it both ways.

  • rate this
    +41

    Comment number 496.

    Dave needs to spell it out bluntly. The British people are not happy with the EU so either the EU changes significantly ot the British people will vote to leave. If UK departs the EU the impact on those remaining in the EU and the whole EU institution will have to undergo radical change. So chnage to the EU is going to happen with or with out UK in it.

  • rate this
    +4

    Comment number 477.

    I am saddended when I read some of the comments posted. We British constantly come across as being arrogant, An attutude of "we know better than our fellow europeans". When the truth is we have a lot to learn from many of them and them from us. In many ways I hope there is a straight forward in or out referendum. If the vote was to opt out then we would have to live with the consquences.

 

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