First Published: 2013-01-24

 

UK’s Cameron draws fire over Europe stand

 

Cameron's call for new deal to keep Britain inside EU wins little support as fellow leaders warn against ‘a la carte’ union.

 

Middle East Online

By Claire Rosemberg – BRUSSELS

Fabius: Europe is not a football club

Prime Minister David Cameron's call for a new deal to keep Britain inside the European Union won little support Wednesday as fellow leaders, mindful of the potential fallout, warned against "a la carte" union.

"We can't have Europe a la carte," French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said. "Imagine the EU was a football club: Once you've joined up and you're in this club, you can't then say you want to play rugby."

Fabius's boss, French President Francois Hollande, said it was not possible to negotiate Britain's membership terms.

"The United Kingdom can perfectly well decide in a referendum to stay in or leave the European Union, that's a decision for the rulers of the country and the British people themselves," Hollande told reporters.

"But what I say on behalf of France, and also as a European, is that it is not possible to negotiate Europe for this referendum."

Though EU officials in Brussels politely welcomed Cameron's declared willingness to fight to keep London in the bloc after months of talk of "Brixit", or British EU exit, even London's traditional allies in northern Europe appeared to give Cameron the cold shoulder.

Saying she hoped Britain would remain a part of the bloc, Danish Prime Minister Helle Thorning-Schmidt said "we believe that Danish interests are best served by staying as close to the EU core as possible. A strong EU is in the clear interest of Denmark."

In Vienna, Austrian Chancellor Werner Faymann had harsh words for Cameron, saying he was drawing Britain into isolation due to his inability to compromise.

"This is not serious politics, it is not in the interests of the citizens or the economy of Europe, nor that of Britain's citizens or its economy."

Mark Rutte, prime minister of the Netherlands, where Cameron had originally been due to give his speech before the Algerian hostage crisis erupted, welcomed Cameron's call for EU reform, something many Dutch people feel is sorely needed.

"That debate is good. What wouldn't be good is if the outcome is that the United Kingdom leaves the EU. That's bad for the United Kingdom and bad for Europe," he said.

In his much-publicised speech, Cameron vowed that if he was re-elected he would renegotiate the terms of London's notoriously troubled EU membership, taking and picking what the bloc has best to offer.

Once a new deal were won, increasingly eurosceptic Britons would be asked to vote by late 2017 on whether to remain in the bloc.

Apparently extending a hand to Cameron, Chancellor Angela Merkel said Germany was ready to discuss Britain's "wishes" on the EU, but in almost the same breath warned that caving in to one country would mean caving in to another.

"We are of course ready also to talk about British wishes but one must keep in mind that other countries also have other wishes and we must in the end always find a compromise," she said.

Italian Prime Minister Mario Monti said he believed British citizens would vote to stay in the EU, adding the bloc desperately needed "willing Europeans."

"It is unthinkable for London to consider a future outside of Europe in a moment in which the European Union's role is ever more central," added Italian Foreign Minister Giulio Terzi.

Picking and choosing the bits and pieces of EU legislation that seemed most attractive to a nation simply could not work and would set a dangerous precedent, warned European Parliament President Martin Schulz.

"I suspect that Prime Minister Cameron with his referendum announcement is playing a dangerous game for tactical, domestic reasons," he said.

"It could lead to piecemeal legislation, disintegration and potentially the breaking of the Union."

Brussels officials meanwhile sought comfort in the fact that a British decision lay years away and a spokeswoman for the executive European Commission said it "welcomes that David Cameron wants Britain to remain in the EU."

It "is very much in the EU's interest and UK's interest" that London remain "an active member" of the 27-nation bloc, spokeswoman Pia Ahrenkilde Hansen said.

"The UK brings a great deal to European integration and has helped shape Europe's policies."

Cameron's resolve to get the best for Britain will be tested at a summit next month, February 7 and 8, to reach a deal on the next long-term EU budget. The last budget summit in November flopped over a British-led bid to slice proposals for EU spending in 2014-2020.

 

Egypt declares three-month state of emergency in Sinai

Lebanon army attacks Islamists as violence spreads to Tripoli souks

Dozens dead in Huthi-Qaeda clashes in central Yemen

Punishment for sexual assault in Iran: Execution of victim!

European clubs step up campaign against winter World Cup in Qatar

Turkey keeps 24 people under observation after yellow powder scare

Russia denies Kerry claims: No agreement to train Iraq army

Germany offers to help Armenia forge peace with Turkey

Libya wakes up from ‘Dubai dream’ to face Somalia-like ‘failed state’

South Yemen separatists vow to intensify secession protests

Relatives of Iraq massacre victims: Blackwater guards should be killed

Ghannouchi makes it clear to Tunisia: It’s either political Islam or Daesh!

Deadly clashes erupt after army raid in northern Lebanon

200 Iraqi Kurd fighters to travel through Turkey to Kobane

Coalition strikes in Syria eliminate more than 500 jihadists in one month

Ahead of elections, new clashes remind Tunisia of need to fight terror

Saudi Arabia jails mothers for preparing sons to wage jihad

Jury finds Blackwater guards guilty of 2007 'massacre' in Iraq

Iraq Kurds approve reinforcements for Kobane

Israel classifies car crash as ‘hit and run terror attack’

Turkish woman arrested for stepping on Koran

Erdogan criticises US for airdrops on Kobane

Iraq schools provide shelter but late to open for classes

Syria air force shoots down two of three 'IS warplanes'

Egypt court rules on ‘Nasr City terror cell’

Fire from Egypt wounds two Israeli soldiers near border

By hook or by crook, settlers notch up property gains in East Jerusalem

Turkey envoy meets leader of parallel government in Libya

Israel arrests seven Palestinian fishermen off northern Gaza

Khamenei to Abadi: Iraq can beat 'Islamic State' without foreign troops

Saudi special court rules in cases of riots and terrorism

Libya army scores small victory in Benghazi

Only in Libya: Government calls for civil disobedience

Kasserine reaps bitter harvest from Tunisia revolution: Poverty and terrorism

Iraq Kurds set to vote on deployment of Peshmerga forces to Syria

Islamic State ‘share in US weapons’ embarrasses Pentagon

Alderton: Morocco unrivalled business gateway to sub-Saharan Africa

Protests over IS turn Istanbul University into war zone

Turkey eyes stricter punishment against lawbreakers at protests

For Sudan President: Promises are something and re-election is something else

Iran returns Abadi to ‘house of obedience’

From traditional military to counterinsurgency force: Syria army grows more capable

South Sudan rivals accept 'responsibility' for civil war

British drones in Iraq also used for Syria surveillance

Turkey launches new wave of wire-tapping arrests