UK & World News
Cameron Told EU Treaty Revision 'Not A Priority'
French President Francois Hollande has told David Cameron renegotiating the EU treaty is not a priority for France.
The French president made his views known at a joint news conference with the British Prime Minister at RAF Brize Norton.
Mr Cameron needs support if he wants to secure his promise to roll back EU red tape by renegotiating Britain's relationship with Europe.
He plans to hold a referendum on EU membership in 2017 if the Conservatives win the next General Election. He has been under intense pressure from Eurosceptic backbenchers.
Mr Hollande refused to be drawn on whether he thought Mr Cameron stood a realistic chance of renegotiating Europe's founding treaty, but replied: "France would like the UK to remain within the European Union.
"France would like to have a more efficient Europe which can attain the objectives which we consider to be essential - growth, employment, energy, and of course, the capacity to bring in the techniques for tomorrow and to protect our population."
He said he felt the Eurozone needed to be "better co-ordinated and integrated", but added: "We feel revising the treaty is not a priority for the time being".
Differences over Europe surfaced after a UK-France summit which saw agreements to extend defence co-operation.
Mr Cameron said Britain's relationship with France was "as close and as important as ever".
"We are both similar sized countries with similar sized armed forces and similar ambitions," said the British Prime Minister, during a joint news conference at RAF Brize Norton, near Oxford.
"We both see the link between our domestic prosperity and being active payers on the global stage."
Mr Cameron, who afterwards took the French president to a pub in his Oxfordshire constituency, was still expected to address the thorny issue over the informal lunch.
But sources close to the French president have said it was "very, very unlikely" he would agree to treaty changes under that timetable.
Mr Hollande knows that he will be under pressure in 2017 as he faces French elections.
Sources close to the president chose the eve of the summit to attack Britain's hopes to repatriate powers from the EU. They warned UK demands were unreasonable and could be damaging.
British officials played down the rift, insisting it was positive the French were now talking about when reform took place, and not if.
A source said he was expecting an "entente tres cordiale" - with deepening ties in a number of industries.
He said the fact the summit was taking place on the centenary of the First World War would be a reminder of the UK and France's historic ties.
The Prime Minister would use the lunch discussion to argue for a "flexibility and the importance of competitiveness" in Europe.
He insisted that Mr Cameron was "optimistic", saying questions were once around whether there was a need for treaty change.
There was now a growing acceptance that would be required, he said. "Each country will bring to the table it's own perspectives and we will bring ours."
The discussion threatened to overshadow the Anglo-French summit in which the two countries also signed up to deeper cooperation between their civil nuclear and space industries.
Mr Cameron announced a two-year £120m feasibility study into a joint programme to build a new armed drone, and revealed the countries planned to work together on a £10m project for an unmanned counter-mine craft.
Britain will offer more logistical support for the French military mission in the war-torn Central African Republic, and troops will hold a joint training exercise later in the year.
The UK will also try out the French VBCI tank with a view to possibly purchasing it for the Army.
Other agreements included the £500m joint purchase of anti-ship missiles, there will also be discussions on the possibility of a joint expeditionary force and about civil nuclear industries after a deal in which French giant EDF will build a new power station at Hinkley Point in Somerset. Mr Cameron wants British SME's to be involved in the industry's supply chain.
Despite holding the summit close to his Oxfordshire home, Mr Cameron did not invite his wife, Samantha.
It was perhaps considered best after Mr Hollande ended a seven-year relationship with Valerie Trierweiler following reports of an affair with actress Julie Gayet, which the French president has not denied.
Mr Hollande refused to respond to questions from a reporter at who asked him if he thought his private life had made France an "international joke", and if the alleged affair was ongoing.
After the lunch, Mr Cameron returned to Brize Norton for a second bilateral with the Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk, who is in Britain as part of a concerted effort to get European leaders to take action to end the crisis in neighbouring Ukraine.
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