Plan for Sarkozy visit abandoned

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A mooted visit to London by French president Nicolas Sarkozy has been abandoned amid tensions over the carve-up of top jobs in the European Union.

British and French officials have discussed the possibility of a bilateral between Mr Sarkozy and Prime Minister Gordon Brown at Number 10 tomorrow.

Both sides admitted today that the idea had been considered but would not now go ahead. Instead they will meet at the European Council in Brussels next week.

The aborted plans emerged amid concern in the City of London that a Frenchman, Michel Barnier, will be in charge of EU financial regulatory reform.

Mr Sarkozy provoked anger earlier this week by describing the British as "the big losers" in the recent European Commission appointments process.

The UK's member of the Commission is Baroness Ashton, who holds the position of vice-president and high representative for foreign and security policy.

Mr Brown has sought to head off claims that the supervision of the City was in French hands - pointing out that Mr Barnier's top civil servant within the Commission was British.

In an interview with Le Monde newspaper, Mr Sarkozy made clear his delight at helping Belgian Prime Minister Herman Van Rompuy get the post of EU president.

That was a blow to Mr Brown, who had tried to secure the job for Tony Blair, his predecessor.

And Mr Sarkozy boasted that the French were now in charge of a key financial post in the EU for the first time in 50 years, adding: "The English are the big losers in this business."

Mr Brown's spokesman said today that the Prime Minister had spent "some good face time" with Mr Sarkozy in Trinidad last week.

They would see each other again in Brussels next weekend.

"There had been some discussions as there always are about when the next bilateral might take place, but obviously it makes much more sense, given how busy everyone's diaries are, to meet when they are together in Brussels," the spokesman said.

A French official said that the decision against holding a bilateral this week had been made "by the two leaders".

He added: "There hasn't been any pulling out by anyone."