Jan. 31 (Bloomberg) -- U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron and French President Francois Hollande clashed over Europe at a summit intended to showcase their cooperation.
Cameron, who has promised to renegotiate Britain’s relationship with the European Union before a 2017 referendum on whether to quit the bloc, repeated his insistence on changing treaties. Hollande demurred.
“Renegotiation will involve some element of treaty change,” Cameron told reporters after meeting Hollande at the Brize Norton airbase near Oxford. At their joint briefing, the French leader said such an overhaul wasn’t a priority.
Cameron pledged to hold a referendum to placate euro-skeptics in his Conservative Party who fear losing votes to the U.K. Independence Party, which advocates withdrawal from the EU. He said he wanted to renegotiate to a position where British voters would opt to stay in a reformed union.
Hollande, whose Socialist Party fractured in a 2005 referendum over an EU constitution, said such talks would lead to endless procedures. France says allowing changes for one country could lead to all others making demands.
“We want Britain to stay in Europe. But that doesn’t mean that Europe can’t be made more efficient. France wants a euro zone that is better coordinated, better integrated,” Hollande said. “As for changing the treaties, there’s no urgency for now. That’s not the priority.”
The two leaders went to a pub for lunch after the summit and sought to use the more informal setting to draw a line between the summit’s theme of military and industrial cooperation and their differences over Europe.
Hollande’s predecessor Nicolas Sarkozy “managed to separate the bilateral relationship from the EU question,” said Vivien Pertusot, head of the Brussels office of the Paris-based French Institute for International Relations. “Hollande is less able.”
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