Open Europe Blog

Last week, we noted how the German media’s reaction to David Cameron’s Europe speech had been cautious, but receptive. Unsurprisingly, the French press has been much less receptive to the British Prime Minister’s call for a reformed EU. In today’s Les Echos, Jean-Marc Vittori pulls no punches:

The headline is, “Long live Europe without the UK!”. Here are the key sections:

“The British have always considered the EU as a big market… [Since their EU entry] they have favoured everything which could expand this market. They have supported all the enlargements which took the EU from six to 27 members. They backed the strengthening of competition rules (which was a good thing).”


“At the same time, they have consistently resisted everything that went beyond that. They dug their heels in on the institutional reform made necessary by the enlargement itself (a business or a family dinner do not work the same way with six or 27 people). They resorted to opt-outs to escape the common policies – the single currency, of course, but also the Schengen security area, the Chart of Fundamental Rights and judicial cooperation.”

“And it’s not everything. The British act as ‘free riders’, as clandestine passengers. They have benefited from European monetary stability in normal times, and from the devaluation of their currency in times of crisis (during the early 1990s and over the past few years). They also know, better than others, how to have the [legislative] projects favourable to them passed in Brussels.”


“Nowadays, the eurozone can’t just be a market and a currency. After the shake-ups of the last three years, it has (finally) become clear that it must be a space of solidarity – that word the British dislike so much (I want my money back). The Greek bailout, the creation of the European Stability Mechanism or the banking union plan all show this, each one in a different way. The other members of the Union are not obliged to enter this logic, even if they did ratify a treaty establishing that all countries aimed to join it. But they can no longer hope to be part of a Union without solidarity.”

“The UK has been a brake for the EU for a long time. It now risks becoming [the EU’s] ball and chain…Europe without the UK would do better than the UK without Europe. Since no exclusion procedure exists, we can only hope that the British themselves decide their eviction by referendum in 2017. With one brake less, Europe will then have more chances to accelerate.” 

Pretty strong stuff. Especially coming from a business daily, which should be more aware than others that the UK is an asset to the EU. Perhaps Monsieur Vittori should have a quick look at our recent ‘Right speech, right time?’ briefing, in which we noted that: a UK exit from the EU would shrink the single market by 15%, with £261.4 billion in annual European exports (up from £165.25 billion in 2001) potentially facing extra costs; a €14 billion hole would open up in the EU budget; and the EU’s geopolitical clout would be substantially reduced.

Would it really be in the best interests of France?

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