France is ready to make a “win-win” deal to avoid a British exit from the European Union but will block any changes which “weaken” the EU, the French economy minister said on Monday.
Emmanuel Macron was speaking after talks with George Osborne who was in Paris to discuss Britain’s demands for EU reform before an in-out referendum planned in the UK next year or in 2017.
Mr Macron dismissed all chance of an early change in the EU treaties:
As things stand in [European public opinion], the answer to any proposal to change the treaties in the near future is likely to be ‘no’ in all countries.
Emmanuel Macron, French economy minister
However, both Mr Macron and Mr Osborne spoke enthusiastically of the prospect of merging a possible British deal with plans to create a stronger, more integrated government for the 19 countries which use the euro.
Mr Macron spoke of a “win-win approach” which would allow eurozone states to move closer together while taking account of the interests of Britain and the eight other EU but “non-euro” countries.
This idea has been suggested in the past but Mr Macron spoke yesterday for the first time of a formal “link” between the two sets of negotiations.
Mr Osborne said Britain wanted to build a more dynamic EU for all European countries:
I’m confident we can get a good deal: a good deal for Britain and indeed for the whole of Europe that means the EU works for all of its citizens. That can create a win-win situation. When we have a good deal we will put it to the British people in that referendum.