Cameron: threat to leave Europe helped
Fascinating words from President Hollande on Britain in his end of talks press conference. When he’s asked about the British rebate he says: it is protected in the treaties and Britain “should keep that in mind when they request changes to the treaties”.
That air of menace was aimed at David Cameron’s strategy (laid out in his January speech) promising a renegotiation and an in/out referendum – muck about with your terms of membership, Francois Hollande is saying, and we’ll do you in (I paraphrase).
That contrasts with Mr Cameron’s own words at his press conference. When the PM was asked if his speech was helping or hindering relations with EU partners he said that the fact he’d laid out a plan for Europe was, if anything, helping.
President Hollande also said that Britain had moved further from its original budget negotiating position than France had – the British conceded 23bn euros on the payments compromise, he said, whereas France conceded 21.6bn euros. Only people who’ve had a bad night tend to go for that sort of attack.
David Cameron leaves here a happy if tired individual. He feels he’s proved he’s not isolated and at the same time got what he came for. The question is whether the alliance he formed in Brussels this week is good for other rows or very specific to this one.
In particular, how consistently will he get Chancellor Merkel on his side in arguments over banking, European Commission posts, justice and home affairs and much else? For all the irritation that President Hollande may have caused the German side in these negotiations and for all the general cooling in relations between those two powers, Germany will surely want to find some ground on which to repair relations?
In the midst of today’s comings and goings we got a definite date for the German general election: 22 September 2013. Germany will not be wanting anything too drastic or expensive happening at the summits between now and then.
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