An “EU a la carte” is not on offer for Britain warns Emmanuel Macron, French Minister of the Economy, Industry and the Digital Sector, because for David Cameron to pick the aspects of EU membership he likes and reject the rest would undermine the entire union.
Speaking to the BBC Macron said: “We have to be extremely cautious not to create a sort of EU a la carte. Creating more flexibility and more simplicity for all member states is fine but starting to create more simplicity for one member state is just dismantling (of the EU).”
Reuters reports the comments, made in an interview with the BBC broadcast today, come ahead of this week’s EU summit at which Cameron was hoping to press ahead with his renegotiation of Britain’s EU membership ahead of the promised 2017 In/Out referendum.
Likening Cameron’s attempts to change Britain’s relationship with the EU to the successful efforts of a previous Conservative Prime Minister, Macron blamed the British rebate secured by Margaret Thatcher in the 1980s, “the famous cheque”, for ending the prospect of a common EU budget.
“I experienced the last negotiation of the budget. Everybody is asking for their cheque,” he said.
In his BBC interview, he said Britain could not expect to enjoy the “benefits” of EU membership but bear none of the risks.
“I don’t understand how it’s possible to say ‘we UK want to have all the positive reasons to be part of the club at 28 and the European passport and a great financial place for all the EU members but we don’t want to share any risk with the other member states’. It doesn’t fly. It’s a common responsibility.”
Asked about the possibility of treaty change and whether France would allow that in order to accommodate Britain’s wish to treat EU nationals working in Britain differently to the home-grown workforce, as well as excluding Britain from some of the Eurozone harmonisation measures, Macron said: “If you speak about treaty change the answer is no. I think it doesn’t make sense.”
This contradicts Cameron’s position, as reported by The Telegraph he said that the changes needed “do involve treaty change, and proper, full-on treaty change.”
Offering some room for Cameron to manoeuvre within, Macron did not rule out a successful renegotiation, conceding that it all depends on the details. He explained:
“If it’s a way to reduce freedom of movement that’s a problem because it’s part of the European DNA. If it’s just to adapt rules and if it’s feasible with the others we can discuss.”
On previous occasions Macron accepted the concept of a two-speed Europe, one in which the 19-nation Eurozone would move towards closer integration without countries like Britain who retain their own currency.