French President does not want a treaty change for a EU referendum

Francois Hollande says ‘non’ to treaty change before the EU referendum

David Cameron will have to wait years to re-write the terms of Britain’s membership of the European Union, says Francois Hollande

By Henry Samuel in Paris, and Christopher Hope in London6:37PM GMT 29 Jan 2014CommentsComments

David Cameron will have to wait years to re-write the terms of Britain’s membership of the European Union, Francois Hollande has said.

The French President’s officials poured scorn on suggestions from Mr Cameron can achieve “treaty change” before any in/out referendum, which he has committed to hold before the of 2017.

The remarks will raise tensions between London and Paris, ahead of an Anglo-French summit – part of which will be held in over a working lunch in pub in Oxfordshire – on Friday this week.

The Prime Minister has said he wants to renegotiate the UK’s relationship with the EU and then put it to a vote of the British people in 2017.

Mr Cameron has suggested that as long as the renegotiation – which will involve changing treaties between Britain and the EU – is successful he will he will campaign for Britain to remain in the EU.

But in a briefing for journalists in Paris ahead of the summit, a senior source close to Mr Hollande said any treaty change was “very, very unlikely” before 2017.

The official said: “This doesn’t mean we won’t one day require treaties to be revised for the requirements of economic monetary union, but it is very, very unlikely this will be compatible with the British political calendar.”

The official continued: “It’s in our interests that Britain remains within Europe, but it is not by changing the treaties or rules will negotiate its place in the EU. It is in our interests that Britain remains within Europe but that cannot happen at the price of dismantling Europe.”

The official went on to warn that if the next Government agrees to a referendum, companies will be less willing to invest in the UK as the date for the vote approaches.

He said: “The more the question becomes concrete in British national debate, the more investors and the business community warn what a Britain out of Europe would mean.

“When investors talk, they want to access the European market through the UK. This access appears interests but presupposes following a certain number of rules to maintain balance in Europe.

“If these rules are not wanted in the UK, it will no longer have access to [the European market].”

Tomorrow’s talks between Mr Cameron and Mr Holland will take place in a pub near the Brize Norton air base, followed by a press conference.

The pair are due to announce a series of defence agreements on drones, energy and space as well as “progress” on creating a combined joint expeditionary force at bilateral summit between François Hollande and David Cameron on Friday.

The Anglo/French summit, the first to be held in the UK for four years, will be held mainly at RAF Brize-Norton in Oxfordshire, the Royal Airforce’s largest airbase and will focus on outlining progress in defence cooperation.
The two countries are due to sign a Euro500m memorandum of understanding to build anti-ship missiles for French and British attack helicopters.

The leaders will also sign up to two years of research and specifications on an unmanned fighter jet known as the “future combat air system” and developed by BAE Systems and Dassault Aviation.

The French are calling this the “first phase” in the construction of the “pilotless plane of the future”.

A third memorandum of understanding will be announced on jointly developing a light underwater vessel capable of detecting mines under the sea.

The leaders are due to confirm “progress” on creating a combined joint expeditionary force of 10,000 men by 2016, as well as further counter-terror co-operation.
The pair will discuss the recent multi-billion pound deal for France’s EDF to build two nuclear power plants at the Hinkley Point site, on the Somerset coast, as well as research and training for nuclear engineers and workers.
Further deals are also due to be unveiled on cooperation over satellites between the UK space agency and CNES, France’s national centre for space studies.

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