David Cameron clashed repeatedly with Nicolas Sarkozy today after the French President tried to exclude Britain and non-eurozone countries from a critical Brussels summit to rescue European banks.
By Bruno Waterfield, Brussels
During two hours of bitter exchanges during a meeting of all 27 EU leaders before a crisis summit of the eurozone’s 17 members on Wednesday, President Sarkozy fought hard to get the Prime Minister barred from talks that would finalise a 100billion euros cash injection into banks.
”We’re sick of you criticising us and telling us what to do. You say you hate the euro, you didn’t want to join and now you want to interfere in our meetings,” the French leader told Mr Cameron, according to diplomats.
Mr Cameron supports steps that the eurozone is taking to boost its banks and bailouts funds as part of wider moves towards closer fiscal union in order to avert a European debt crisis that has threatened to plunge the global economy into a slump.
But he fears that regular meetings of the euro’s 17 governments will lead to the creation of a Franco-Greman dominated “caucus” or a bloc that could hijack the EU’s single market for its own ends, damaging the British economy by imposing regulations that benefit Paris or Frankfurt over the City of London.
”There is danger that as the eurozone comes together that those countries outside might see the eurozone start to take decisions on some of the things that are vital to them in the single market, for instance financial services,” he said.
Following strong and vocal support from Sweden and Poland, Mr Cameron secured agreement that he and non-euro countries would be invited to the bank rescue summit next week, even at the price of having to reschedule his planned trip to Australian and Japan.
He also won a fight to include a “safeguard clause” that the eurozone would not be allowed to take any decisions on issues, such as regulation of financial services, that affected all the EU’s 27 members.
”I have secured a commitment today that we must safeguard the interests of countries that want to stay outside the euro, particularly with respect to the integrity of the single market for all 27 members.
The EU text, described as a “major victory” by British diplomats, calls on the European Commission “to safeguard a level playing field among all member states including those not participating in the euro”.
Amid growing Greek anger, strikes and conflict, Herman Van Rompuy, the EU president, said that “further steps will be needed” to impose austerity and praised European leaders for defying popular opposition to bailouts and Brussels-IMF imposed austerity measures.
”Some of those steps were and are unpopular; be it measures taken in your countries or our joint decisions taken here as a Union,” he said. “I thank you for your political courage, often underestimated.”
But Jerzy Buzek, the president of the European Parliament warned the summit that growing public anger over the EU’s handling of the crisis could endanger plans to change European treaties towards greater fiscal union.
”I am concerned, however, that our citizens might not be ready for another round of referendums and ratifications,” he said. “MEPs keep telling me that in their constituencies, many people now see Europe as part of the problem, and not as part of the solution.”
www.telegraph.co.uk, 23 Oct 2011