Sunday 4 December 2016

As Britain votes, France says EU treaty change a no-go

Alastair Macdonald

Published 07/05/2015 | 13:44

French Finance Minister Michel Sapin Credit: Eric Vidal
French Finance Minister Michel Sapin Credit: Eric Vidal

French Finance Minister Michel Sapin said a new British government should not count on being able to renegotiate EU treaties as Prime Minister David Cameron said he will do if he wins Thursday's general election.

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Asked at a news conference in Brussels how he might address British concerns about deepening integration in the European Union, Sapin noted existing British opt-outs in EU treaties and said further renegotiation of the texts was not feasible.

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"I certainly don't think that renegotiation is the solution," he said.

"Even if none of us should rule out considering a profound institutional development of the treaties, in today's circumstances starting out by questioning the treaties is setting oneself up for certain failure."

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Cameron has promised voters he will rework London's relations with Brussels and then hold a referendum on Britain's continued membership of the bloc in 2017.

He has not set out his demands in detail but wants more powers to curb immigration to Britain from other EU member states.

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EU officials and other national leaders have ruled out any change to EU laws on free movement of citizens within the 28-nation bloc.

French officials, among others, have warned that changing treaties may in any case not be practicable because voters in France and other countries where ratification would require a referendum could well vote down any new EU legislation, if only due to broader public disenchantment with the EU.

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Cameron's Conservatives and the main opposition Labour party are running neck-and-neck in British opinion polls and no single party is expected to win a parliamentary majority in Thursday's election.

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