François Hollande launched a three-pronged attack on Britain saying that Europe would survive without the UK, while claiming David Cameron risked splintering the EU and that his austerity policies were failing.
In a marathon press conference just shy of three hours, the embattled Socialist President promised to “go on the offensive” in year two of his five-year mandate with France sinking into recession and enduring record unemployment levels.
When asked about Mr Cameron’s plan for a law guaranteeing a vote on Britain’s EU membership, Mr Hollande told 400 journalists gathered at the Elysée Palace: “Europe existed before Britain joined it.”
France, Germany and four other nations were long part of the European Economic Community before Britain joined fully in 1973.
“There are political forces favourable to Britain leaving,” Mr Hollande said. “The UK Prime Minister himself wants to renegotiate his country’s presence (in the EU). Let me be clear: I want to make the eurozone go forward as it is the heart (of the EU), because we have integration to pursue.”
There were overtones of Charles de Gaulle in his warning that Britain would not slow down European construction. De Gaulle twice vetoed Britain’s entry to the EEC, claiming its “deep-seated hostility” towards European construction would result in the break-up of the community.
“I can understand countries don’t want to join the euro but they cannot impede the consolidation and strengthening of the eurozone,” Mr Hollande said. “And if they want to go further and refuse powers, then the risk is of a splintered Europe. So we must fix red lines.”
Full article: Europe can survive without Britain, says François Hollande (The Telegraph)