Cameron to hold talks with Sarkozy

Click to follow

David Cameron is making his first foray on to the world stage as Prime Minister today, visiting Nicolas Sarkozy in Paris.

Mr Cameron is to hold talks with the French president this evening, before heading for Berlin where he will meet German Chancellor Angela Merkel tomorrow.

The encounters will be keenly scrutinised for indications of how the new British leader intends to handle relations with his EU counterparts.

President Sarkozy publicly expressed disappointment at Mr Cameron's decision to withdraw his MEPs from the centre-right EPP grouping in the European Parliament.

However, the PM's aides always dismissed rumours of personal and policy tensions between the two men, and the president made a point of meeting the then Tory leader during his most recent trip to the UK in March.

By comparison, Mrs Merkel was widely thought to have snubbed Mr Cameron by not seeing him when she visited the country in April.

One largely unknown quantity is the effect of the Liberal Democrats on the PM's approach.

The coalition partners agreed there will be no further transfer of sovereignty to Brussels during this parliament, but it is not clear whether the Tories scrapped plans to try to reclaim powers.

One significant concession Mr Cameron did make was moving Mark Francois, a redoubtable Eurosceptic, from the post of shadow europe minister to the Whips office. He was replaced by the more moderate David Lidington.

The presence of the Lib Dems in government could ease the new premier's path by reassuring continental leaders that the UK is not about to rock the boat.

Mr Lidington told BBC Radio 4's Today programme: "I think there is a big agenda, that the Prime Minister is keen to discuss with the President of France and the German Chancellor, about taking Europe forward.

"We are in early discussions now at European level about both the future of the European budget and about the overall shape of European economic policy towards 2020.

"Our view is, we need to see Europe focusing much more on getting people back into work, improving the single market through greater liberalisation, making other initiatives on international trade, because that helps prosperity both in Europe and in the wider world, and in addressing major problems like climate change and nuclear proliferation."

Asked about the prospect of a referendum if there are revisions to the Lisbon Treaty, Mr Lidington said: "We will look at what the Germans propose. At the moment there have been some initial reports but nothing specific."

He added: "The first thing we've got to establish is, what it is that the German Chancellor has in mind. The Prime Minister will be discussing that with her tomorrow.

"I don't think there's a great appetite, not just in Britain, but in the rest of the European Union, for further treaty change after the very long, drawn-out and controversial process of Lisbon."