David Cameron 'standing up for UK' in euro row

 

Prime Minister David Cameron today insisted he was right to stand up for Britain's interests in the European Union in exchanges which provoked a furious French President Nicolas Sarkozy to tell him to "shut up".

Mr Cameron told MPs it was vital to ensure that the voices of all 27 European Union members are heard on Wednesday when the 17 eurozone states meet in Brussels to seek a resolution to the financial crisis.

 

In a statement to the House of Commons, Mr Cameron said he expected a "big and bold" agreement to be reached, which would involve recapitalising Europe's banks, building a "big bazooka" eurozone bailout fund and solving Greece's debt problems.

 

At the summit, Mr Sarkozy objected to Mr Cameron's call for a European Council meeting involving all 27 members on Wednesday, insisting that the decisions were for the 17 eurozone members only.

 

Mr Sarkozy bluntly told the Prime Minister: "You have lost a good opportunity to shut up. We are sick of you criticising us and telling us what to do. You say you hate the euro and now you want to interfere in our meetings."

 

Labour leader Ed Miliband said that the French President was "speaking for Britain". He accused Mr Cameron of "grandstanding from the sidelines" instead of engaging constructively in the discussions on how to resolve the current crisis.

 

Mr Miliband told MPs: "It sounds like (the Prime Minister) now believes Britain should play an active role in solving this crisis, but the truth is that month after month, the Prime Minister and Chancellor have chosen to grandstand on the sidelines, not to help sort out this situation.

 

"The Chancellor even refused to go to the initial meetings he was invited to on the issue. They have shown no will to try to find the solutions."

 

Mr Miliband said that on Sunday, the PM "wrote the European version of How to Lose Friends and Alienate People".

 

"He went into the summit lecturing the Germans and came out of it being shouted at by the French," said the Labour leader, to approving cheers from the Conservative backbenches.

 

"Apparently President Sarkozy - until recently his new best friend - had had enough of the posturing, lecturing and know-it-all ways," said Mr Miliband.

 

"Let me say, Mr President, you spoke not just for France but for Britain as well."

 

Mr Cameron said the Labour leader's comments were "extraordinary".

 

"It is difficult from opposition to sell out your country, but he has just done it," he said.

 

Britain's relations with France, particularly over Libya, were closer than they had been for 40 years, said Mr Cameron, adding: "If you have good relations with someone, you can have frank discussions with them.

 

"I don't for one minute resile from the need sometimes to speak clearly and frankly on behalf of Britain and stand up for the British national interest.

 

"It is in our national interest that the eurozone deals with its problems, and it is right that we make that clear."

 

Looking ahead to the full summit of the European Council which will be followed by a meeting of eurozone states, Mr Cameron said: "I think the eurozone countries are coming together, they are seeing the need for a big and bold solution that needs to happen... I believe that will happen over the course of this week."

 

Mr Cameron told MPs: "Resolving the problems in the eurozone is the urgent and over-riding priority facing not only the eurozone members, but the EU as a whole - and indeed the rest of the world economy.

 

"Britain is playing a positive role proposing the three vital steps needed to deal with this crisis - the establishment of a financial firewall big enough to contain any contagion; the credible recapitalisation of European banks; and a decisive solution to the problems in Greece."

PA

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