France ‘Won’t Pay Extra Price to Keep the UK in the EU’

Suzanne Plunkett/Reuters
Suzanne Plunkett / Reuters

David Cameron’s battle to renegotiate Britian’s relationship with the European Union has hit another stumbling block ahead of today’s Council meeting in Brussels.

French President Francois Holland will tell Mr Cameron that he is “obsessed with his own problems”, the Telegraph reports, and he plans to block the Prime Minister’s bid for a treaty change which the Conservatives have used as their main defence against a creeping UKIP attack.

The Socialist President, who is suffering in the polls and has fallen behind the Front National leader Marine Le Pen, fears that a change in the Treaties could trigger a referendum in France which, as in 2005, the establishment may lose. The FN’s charismatic leader is already campaigning for a popular vote on the euro.

A French source confirmed the fears, saying “there is no guarantee today that a French government could convince the French people.”

“The price to keep Britain in Europe keeps getting higher and higher. It is now up to the UK to decide,” he added. “We will not pay an extra price to keep the UK in the EU.”

Mr Cameron is using the Eurozone crisis as a vehicle for his own requests for treaty changes which is expected to include an opt out for the UK on the fundamental principle of “ever closer union”.

Following the backlash from senior EU figures including German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker, Mr Cameron has stepped back from demanding a change to the Freedom of Movement principle.

Any changes to EU treaties require unanimity in the Council of Ministers and President Hollande will remind Mr Cameron that means France will need to agree. The source said there had been “no demonstration of the need for new rules and no urgency” beyond the Conservative’s desire to stop the UKIP surge in the UK.

The news was met with anger from Senior Conservatives who are relying on renegotiation ahead of the General Election next May. They will need demonstrable victories that the UK has secured in order to convince voters they can deliver on their pledge.

Eurosceptic MP Liam Fox said the French reaction was the “height of stupidity.”

“The Prime Minister wants to get the best deal for Britain” he said. “To threaten to veto treaty change, before you know what the proposed change is going to be, is utterly symptomatic of how utterly out of touch the current European leaders are.”

“They ignore the need for change, and plough on relentlessly towards their 1950s objective of ever-closer union. If they break, it is because they won’t bend.”

Senior European diplomats have warned that Britain’s capital is low in Brussels. “Britain’s political prestige in Europe is lower than I have ever known it,” one said.

“It has not been helped by recent British behaviour over the EU budget, which was widely regarded as childish” he added in a statement which is bound to enrage British tax payers who were furious at the additional bill they were handed.