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British PM Cameron meets French president on first state visit

Video by Stephen CLARKE


Latest update : 2010-05-21

British Prime Minister David Cameron, who took office a week ago, met French President Nicolas Sarkozy on Thursday on his first diplomatic visit, announcing that the two leaders would work together to reform the banking system.

AFP - Britain's new Prime Minister David Cameron and France's President Nicolas Sarkozy began what they called a new partnership Thursday, vowing to work together to craft new global financial regulation.

There was some concern in Europe ahead of the Conservative leader's first foreign trip since coming to power nine days ago, given his reputation as a eurosceptic, but Sarkozy was all smiles as he welcomed him to the Elysee.

After a quick working dinner, both leaders appeared at a news conference to emphasise the many ways in which they said they would work side-by-side as Europe struggles to overcome its financial crisis.

"One of the areas in which the president and me have very much a shared agenda is making sure that at the forthcoming G8 and G20 we really look at reform of our banking system," Cameron told reporters.

France and Britain will both attend the Toronto G20 summit of the world's most powerful economies next month, and Sarkozy wants to use his presidency of the group next year to push for global financial reform.

Cameron said Britain and France would back a "banking levy" to take back funds from banks which returned to profit only after public bail-outs.

He added that both Britain and France supported US President Barack Obama's idea that high street retail banks should not be involved in high-risk trades or what he branded "casino banking".

The British leader was to stay in the British embassy in Paris overnight and to visit Germany's Chancellor Angela Merkel in Berlin on Friday on the second stage of his first European trip.

Sarkozy said that it was important that Britain, Germany and France work together, and played down reports that he had fallen out with Merkel over her handling of Europe's debt crisis.

"In terms of our relations with Angela Merkel, we're doing everything to ensure that they are in harmony, that they are complementary, that they are full and that they show a common ambition," Sarkozy said.

"There are no disagreements between us," he insisted, adding that he backed Merkel's idea of imposing sanctions on states that break eurozone budget rules.

While Sarkozy and Cameron appeared happy to work together on market reform, they could not paper over their disagreement over the euro, which Britain has refused to join and France feels is an essential part of European unity.

Britain has been criticised for sitting out while fellow European Union members put together a trillion-dollar emergency rescue package to protect their debt-ridden partners from defaulting on their government debt.

Cameron admitted that he had always had "fundamental concerns about the euro" and that Britain would not join and that as a non member it did not expect to have to pay to support the bail-out.

"But let me be absolutely clear, it is in Britain's interest that the eurozone is a success, that the euro is a successful currency, that the eurozone economies recover," he said.

"As a member of the European Union there are steps we will take together to get our economies going," he said, adding that he and Sarkozy were agreed on the need to cut deficits to lay the groundwork for future growth.

Sarkozy responded that the euro had been a great success and had been a bar against the return of the competitive devaluations and monetary crises that hit Europe in the 1990s that had cost millions of jobs.

"I am among those who think that we are stronger united than isolated. I have supported the euro since its creation," he said, vowing to fight to give Europe a more united economic government.

"Great Britain will decide whatever it decides and I'm sure it'll make the right decision."

Both men looked forward to June 18, when Sarkozy and wife Carla Bruni will visit London to mark the 70th anniversary of General Charles de Gaulle's World War II broadcast calling for resistance against France's Nazi occupiers.

Date created : 2010-05-20


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