Hollande: ‘I’ll do what is needed to keep UK in Europe’
French President Francois Hollande said on Friday he would do what is necessary to keep Britain in the European Union – on condition that “Europe can still move forward”.
“I’ll do what is needed to keep the United Kingdom in Europe, but on condition that Europe can still move forward,” Hollande told French radio as a key Brussels summit was set to go on late into the evening.
But with Prime Minister David Cameron seeking a package of reforms ahead of a referendum on British membership of the bloc, Hollande said Britain could not have “special rules” for the City of London, its powerful financial sector.
One of Cameron’s aims in the negotiations is to ensure that the City of London is not bound by rules governing the euro single currency area.
“We can take into action what the City represents for Europe… but there cannot be special rules for the City,” Hollande told France Inter radio.
Cameron has said that unless he gets a satisfactory deal, he will not campaign for Britain to stay in the 28-nation European Union in a referendum that he is expected to hold as early as June.
Hollande said the other EU nations “must not give in to blackmail” but he said he genuinely believed Britain was seeking a deal that would allow it to remain part of the bloc.
“This is Britain, through the voice of David Cameron, saying ‘help me to stay in Europe’,” he said.
But Hollande added: “If the British people want to leave, I will regret it for the sake of Europe, for Britain and for France, but I will accept it.”
The British prime minister faces opposition from eastern European countries such as Poland over his plans to limit access to benefits for migrants.
Cameron also faces trouble from France and Belgium over his bid to make clear that Britain is not committed to ever-closer union.