9 Dec 2011

Sarkozy to Cameron: ‘You can’t have an offshore centre’

David Cameron got quite a tongue-lashing from President Sarkozy in last night’s European Council session. The French President said to Mr Cameron that they were all gathered to try to sort out the eurozone and he was coming along with irrelevant demands to have an offshore centre taking capital away from the rest of Europe. EU sources say they now strongly expect President Sarkozy to renew his efforts to clip the City of London’s wings.

There’s much muttering here about what William Hague was doing in the PM’s delegation, all night in the UK offices in the European Council building. I haven’t seen any other EU foreign secretaries here. Mr Hague told one inquisitive reporter that he just happened to be in Brussels for a Nato meeting, so thought he’d pop in. There’s inevitably speculation that he was some kind of Euro-sceptic Suslov figure in the room  to make sure nothing unacceptable to the Euro-sceptics got through. I’m not sure the Euro-sceptics will be satiated with the overnight red meat.

Looking out at the massive infrastructure of the EU in Brussels – grey stone and dark glass as far as the eye can see – you have to pinch yourself to imagine that the eurozone countries are, just because David Cameron wouldn’t sign up to a treaty change of the 27, going to say “fine, we won’t use any of this kit, we’ll just set up a shed down the road and organise our affairs from there.” But when you ask David Cameron “so what did wielding the veto actually win for Britain” that is one of the prizes he lists – making sure that the European Commission etc. serve the wider 27, not the 17. Talk to EU sources here and they think that is deluded. President Barosso more or less said the same in his press conference last night.

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