French President Hollande warns Cameron he cannot pick and choose from 'a la carte' Europe to return powers from Brussels
British PM wants to repatriate powers from the EU before putting new settlement to British people in a referendumBut Socialist leader Hollande insists membership of the EU is 'for life'



16:32 GMT, 14 December 2012

David Cameron has been warned by the French that he cannot treat Europe as an ‘a la carte’ menu, where Britain picks and chooses which bits it likes.

French President Francois Hollande insisted signing up to the euro bloc was ‘for life’ and ruled out allowing the UK to take back powers already surrendered to Brussels.

Mr Cameron will use a major speech in the New Year to spell out set out his vision on Britain’s place in the European Union, offering a referendum on a new settlement.

French President Francois Hollande

Prime Minister David Cameron at the EU summit

What entente cordiale French President Francois Hollande warned David Cameron he could not treat Europe like an 'a la carte' menu, scuppering hopes of Britain bringing powers back from Brussels

The PM is expected to reveal the results of a coalition review of EU powers which he wants to repatriate, including justice, business and employment regulations.

But Mr Hollande signalled his opposition to the idea, arguing the 27 member states must sign up to the EU’s entire policy programme.

It raises the prospect of France blocking any attempt by Britain to negotiate a new relationship with Europe, scuppering Mr Cameron’s hopes of placating a growing band of Eurosceptics on the Tory benches.

Mr Hollande told reporters at the European Council summit in Brussels: ‘To repatriate Usually when a country commits it is for life.

‘I believe that treaties are meant to be complied with. This discussion could take place but Europe is not a Europe in which you can take back competences. It is not Europe a la carte.’

The warning echoes remarks made
earlier this week by Cecilia Malmstrm, EU home affairs commissioner,
who said it would be difficult for Britain to opt out of a raft of laws
and then opt in to the ones it likes.

told the Financial Times: ‘On each of these opt-ins there will have to
be a negotiation and the other member states will have to agree.’

But today Mr Cameron was defiant, insisting: ‘There has to be flexibility in Europe.’

Mr Cameron told reporters at the European Council that there was nothing to fear in the eurozone becoming more closely integrated, creating a two-speed Europe

Mr Cameron told reporters at the European Council that there was nothing to fear in the eurozone becoming more closely integrated, creating a two-speed Europe

The PM was speaking after EU leaders agreed a deal for a new banking watchdog for countries which use the single currency.

Mr Cameron told reporters at a press conference he hoped to use the closer integration of the Eurozone nations to secure a ‘better deal’ for Britain.

‘The changes that the euro is driving, of course are affecting the eurozone countries, but they affect all of us. They affect the organisation that we are a member of, that we are a contributor to, that we are an important part of.

‘There has to be flexibility in Europe. There has to be flexibility that respects the fact that there are countries that don’t want to, and never will in our case, in my view, join the euro.

‘But also I believe it will lead to opportunities for us in the UK to make changes in our relationship with the European Union that will suit us better, that the British people will be more comfortable about.’

Mr Cameron wants the EU to go further on scrap regulations but praised progress made so far.

His long-awaited Europe speech, due this month, is now expected early in the New Year.

At a Westminster lunch this week, the Premier defended delays in ‘tantric’ approach to policymaking., adding: ‘It will be even better when it does eventually come.’