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Tuesday 12 December 2017

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

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

Alastair Macdonald

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.

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.

Read More: Why 'Calamity Clegg' is likely to be the leader who rose without a trace

"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."

Read More: No party on course for clear win as voting polls in UK elections open

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.

Read More: Northern Ireland MPs set for General Election

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.

Read More: Final signs of desperation as the Tories decide to push the panic button

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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