France’s Nicolas Sarkozy greets Britain’s PM David Cameron as he arrives in Paris for a meeting about the eurozone crisis
4:06pm UK, Friday December 02, 2011
Prime Minister David Cameron has insisted British interests will be paramount if the European Union treaty is changed to help resolve the eurozone crisis.
Speaking after he met French President Nicolas Sarkozy in Paris for talks over the crisis, he said: “If there is treaty change than I will make sure that we further protect and enhance Britain’s interest.
“I’m absolutely convinced the bottom line for me, as always, is what is in the best interest of the UK and how can I defend that.”
The French and British leaders met briefly ahead of the European Union summit to be held next Friday.
They spoke about plans to reorganise the governance of the eurozone which will see closer cooperation between the 17-strong bloc – and would potentially marginalise Britain’s influence in the EU.
Germany’s Angela Merkel says Europe is on the verge of launching “fiscal union”
The meeting followed German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s speech in parliament saying that the eurozone crisis would take years to solve.
She reiterated her opposition to the European Central Bank (ECB) issuing eurobonds, and said that instead, there needs to be a new “stability union” with stronger fiscal controls and debt regulations.
She said their goal at next week’s summit is to change European treaties “to avoid a splitting of the eurozone and non-eurozone members”.
Any reforms of the Maastricht Treaty rules governing the eurozone will have to be agreed by all 27 members of the EU.
Mr Sarkozy revealed on Thursday that he would meet Ms Merkel on Monday to discuss treaty changes that can restore confidence in the euro’s future.
He said: “France will push with Germany for a new European treaty refounding and rethinking the organisation of Europe.
“The Maastricht Treaty has revealed itself to be imperfect,” he added, referring to the pact that led to the creation of the euro currency in 1999.
Mr Sarkozy and Mr Cameron have very different views about how to tackle the crisis.
The French leader thinks it is crucial that more control is given to Brussels over national budgets, but Mr Cameron believes the EU should have less power.
It raises the possibility of Mr Cameron using the negotiations to win repatriation of social and employment laws from Brussels to the UK.
As with any negotiation in Europe we have to wait and see what is being proposed and see how we will respond. We will always look to further our national interest.
David Cameron’s official spokesman
However, it is unclear whether the UK Government may wait for future, more substantial treaty negotiations to gain the kind of concessions that the coalition is committed to and Tory MPs have been baying for.
It has been reported that the Prime Minister is more concerned about ensuring the eurozone gets its problems under control as quickly as possible.
Chancellor George Osborne warned this week that, while Britain was not yet heading for recession, another crisis in the eurozone could pull the UK economy under.
Downing Street said it was waiting to see the options paper for reform which European Council president Herman van Rompuy is drawing up for next week’s gathering of EU heads.
Mr Cameron’s official spokesman said: “Primarily what is being looked at here is rules for the eurozone.
“As with any negotiation in Europe we have to wait and see what is being proposed and see how we will respond.
“We will always look to further our national interest.”