By James Chapman and Hugo Duncan
Last updated at 11:28 AM on 5th November 2011
French president Nicolas Sarkozy launched an astonishing attack on Britain’s attitude to Europe last night.
The furious French leader was branded the ‘new de Gaulle’ after claiming the British can’t comprehend Europe because we are ‘an island’.
‘You come from an island, so maybe you don’t understand the subtleties of European construction,’ he snapped at BBC Newsnight’s economics editor Paul Mason.
Mr Sarkozy had been asked whether it was right for the European Union to be attempting to block an EU referendum and install a coalition government in Greece.
His outburst was quickly seen as evidence that the diminutive French premier has contempt for both Greece and Britain.
His comments come less than two weeks after he snapped at David Cameron at a Brussels summit, telling the Prime Minister to stop telling the eurozone ‘what to do’ about the economic crisis. ‘You have lost a good opportunity to shut up,’ he said.
Also at the Brussels summit Mr Sarkozy publicly snubbed Mr Cameron by turning away as the Prime Minister offered his hand in friendship.
Eurosceptics fear the big eurozone countries are using the economic calamity to rush headlong into the fiscal union they have always wanted – and see an effective end to independent nation states.
They accused Mr Sarkozy of having ‘contempt’ for Britain and democracy.
Tory MP Philip Davies said: ‘This just shows what the project is all about. President Sarkozy is not interested in what we have to say. He is only interested in getting his hands on our money. He’s behaving like the new Charles de Gaulle, another French leader who didn’t want us in Europe. But I’m right behind him. I don’t want us in the EU either.’
Fellow Tory Douglas Carswell added: ‘The French president is behaving with complete contempt just as the Euro elite always does to countries with long, proud traditions of national self-determination.’
Conservative MP Mark Reckless accused Mr Sarkozy and other EU leaders of a dangerous power-grab.
He said: ‘I think if the Greeks want to have a referendum, they should be allowed to. And what seems to be happening here is the EU leaders, who hate referendums – whenever people get a chance to vote, they vote against the EU – they’ve said, “If you allow a referendum, then we’ll cut off the money”. So they’re almost forcing the Greek leaders not to allow their people to have a say.’
France and Germany are threatening to agree their own intergovernmental treaty allowing their economies to converge, excluding Britain, if Mr Cameron tries to use negotiations to meet a Tory pledge to claw back powers from Brussels.
Meanwhile, Italy was last night forced to call in international inspectors to oversee its finances as fears mounted it will be the next victim of the eurozone crisis. It has debts of £1.6trillion – a whopping 120 per cent of GDP.
Prime minister Silvio Berlusconi agreed to the humiliating step during crunch talks with other EU leaders after weeks of fierce pressure from the financial markets and global leaders.
In an extraordinary outburst, Mr Berlusconi said that life in Italy has got worse since the introduction of the single currency more than a decade ago.
‘Italians have been impoverished since the introduction of the euro,’ he said.