Reports are emerging that French President Nicolas Sarkozy and British Prime Minister David Cameron bitterly and repeatedly clashed at Brussels ahead of a Eurozone summit meeting designed to rescue European banks.
Sarkozy apparently tried to block Cameron and representatives of other non Eurozone nations from the Belgian assembly, according to a report in the Daily Telegraph newspaper of the UK.
There are 27 nations in the European Union (EU), but only 17 members in the Eurozone – Britain is not in the currency bloc.
Reportedly, Sarkozy battled to ban Cameron from participating in talks that would hammer out an agreement to provide 100 billion euros ($139 billion) in cash to struggling European banks.
According to the Telegraph, quoting diplomats who were witnesses, Sarkozy shouted at Cameron: ”We’re sick of you criticizing us and telling us what to do. You say you hate the euro, you didn’t want to join and now you want to interfere in our meetings.”
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In response, Cameron has said that he endorses steps taken to solidify the banks of the Eurozone in order to prevent a European-wide debt crisis. But, reportedly, he fears that France and Germany may have consolidated too much power and influence in the EU, thereby lessening Britain’s presence in European affairs and perhaps endangering the UK economy.
”There is danger that as the Eurozone comes together that those countries outside might see the Eurozone start to take decisions on some of the things that are vital to them in the single market, for instance financial services,” he said.
Nonetheless, Cameron gained an agreement from the Eurozone that he and other leaders of non-Eurozone countries can attend a summit next week on the bank rescue plan.
Sweden and Poland (two other non-Eurozone members) supported Cameron’s stance.
The British PM also secured a clause under which the Eurozone would be forbidden for making any decisions on regulation of financial services issues that would impact all 27 EU components.
” This must not be at the expense of Britain's national interest. I have secured a commitment today that we must safeguard the interests of countries that want to stay outside the euro, particularly with respect to the integrity of the single market for all 27 members,” he told media.
“More progress is needed. I think we are beginning to see the elements of a strong package coming together.”
BBC’s Europe correspondent Gavin Hewitt commented: The more closely integrated the Eurozone becomes, the greater the British fear will be that decisions will be taken that impacts on their major concerns such as preserving and expanding the single market”