UK: Hollande and Cameron disagree on EU reform in England

1st Feb 2014

French President Francois Hollande has rejected British plans to revise EU treaties. At a meeting in England, Hollande said the issue was “not a priority” for Paris, also urging Britain to remain in Europe. 

President Hollande and British Prime Minister David Cameron failed to agree on plans to revise European Union treaties at their first ever bilateral summit on Friday.

The two leaders met at RAF Brize Norton in the southern English county of Oxfordshire to discuss military cooperation, including armed drones, anti-ship missiles and underwater mine detectors. A joint Franco-British force of 10,000 soldiers planned in the next few years was also on the agenda.

But the major sticking point was  Cameron’s proposal to make amendments to EU treaties. Hollande firmly rejected the plans, saying they were “not a priority” for Paris. At a joint press conference after the one-day talks, Hollande said he wanted Britain to remain in the EU, but added, “if there are going to be amendments to the text, we don’t feel that they are urgent.”

Cameron makes his position clear

If re-elected as the UK premier next year, Cameron had pledged to renegotiate Britain’s membership of the 28-member bloc and then put the results to a referendum by 2017.

The Conservative prime minister said this “absolutely” remained his position, saying “we want to see those changes, we want to see that renegotiation, that renegotiation will involve elements of treaty change.”

Hollande and Cameron did come to some agreement, however, on defense cooperation – announcing multi-million-euro joint projects to build combat drones and unmanned anti-mine vehicles. They also announced joint training exercises and closer logistics operations.

Speaking at a press conference at the end of the talks, Hollande said: “We are two great countries and we have worldwide responsibilities. The UK and France are permanent members of the (UN) Security Council and our defense efforts, despite all our budgetary difficulties, have been maintained.”

Cameron also said that “we recognize that if we, Britain and France, do more together, our defense budgets will go further, our armed forces will benefit from better equipment and our defense industries will remain world leaders and we will be able to have a greater global impact.”

Meanwhile, Hollande refused to answer questions from the British media about his love life following a scandal over an alleged affair with French actress Julie Gayet. Last weekend, Hollande announced to the AFP news agency that his  long-term relationship with Valerie Trierweiler was over.

lw/msh (AP, AFP, dpa, Reuters)

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