Europe needs Britain, says Sarkozy


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The Independent Online

The French President Nicolas Sarkozy has said that Europe "needs Britain" and a British departure from the European Union was "not on the agenda". Trying to heal some of the wounds created by the "Britain vs the Rest" split over the new eurozone fiscal pact last week, Mr Sarkozy added that he wanted to press ahead with "strong co-operation" between France and Britain on defence and nuclear energy policy.

But the French leader said a "new Europe" had been born last week – and Britain had chosen not to join it. "There are now clearly two Europes," he said yesterday. "One that wants more solidarity between its member states and more regulation. The other which is interested only in the logic of the internal market."

Asked if that meant Britain's place within the EU was threatened, Mr Sarkozy said: "We need Great Britain. It would be a much diminished EU if Britain was to leave, which is, very happily, not on the agenda." Mr Sarkozy was giving a lengthy post-Brussels summit interview to the centre-left Le Monde newspaper. Most of the questions and answers were about the implications of the fiscal pact accepted in principle by 26 EU governments on Friday. But Mr Sarkozy was also pressed on the reasons for, and implications of, the split with the UK. He was asked whether he had, in effect, forced Britain out of Europe.

"[Angela Merkel] and I did everything we could to include the British in the agreement... [but] their demands ... were not acceptable," he said. "This crisis originated with the deregulation of finance. Europe should be going towards more regulation, not less."